When Karen decided to put her hand up to become a foster carer, she never knew how much it would change her life.
Karen began fostering an 11-year-old boy in September 2016 and says the fulfilment of fostering has taught her more about herself and the world than she could have ever learnt on her own. Karen now fosters four high-needs children through foster care agency, Key Assets.
“It’s nothing like what I thought it would be. I was worried about challenging behaviours and there’s a big stigma about it all,” she says.
“I’ve had my own children and when I found myself single about 18 months ago and the kids were all off my hands, I decided to get into it and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done.
“As you get older you start to look for meaning in life and purpose. Instead of just existing, I wanted to live.”
Karen says fostering is highly rewarding and encourages everyone who is “in a good place” to be a carer.
“It’s not like you take on children and you’re left to it. It’s nothing like that at all. It’s such a supportive journey. She says the children are “so loving,” and have their own personality which she admits, she didn’t expect. “Considering what they’ve gone through they are all beautiful souls.”
Challenging behaviours were an initial shock, she says. “I had to learn. I didn’t realise how powerful love was. I didn’t realise a hug and being gentle and kind changed their worlds.”
She says if a child were to throw a tantrum, she doesn’t see a naughty child, instead a child that is hurt and can’t regulate their own behaviours.
“The child’s frightened and the child’s scared. They’ve never learnt to deal with their issues. You get to know the children and it’s like anyone else – you’re just pacifying someone that is hurt.”
“It’s a crazy house, but it’s a happy crazy house. Even when a child is having a melt-down, the other littlies come up and give that one a hug at the right time. They are so compassionate well before their years. These children are overcoming adversities.”
Karen says she doesn’t need a ‘thank you’ for fostering; instead watching the children grow in their personal development is all she could ask.
“I see it in the way they interact. They’re just happy kids now. They certainly weren’t when they came. They were very disengaged and didn’t want to know me. They were frightened of me. And now they just love children.”
Despite the challenging behaviours, she says the support of Key Assets help her “through everything.”
“One day I got to a stage where I couldn’t manage. I couldn’t cope. I called the agency and they found a worker to come around and take them out for the day to give me a break.”
“Foster care is not what people think it is. I couldn’t be a bigger advocate for it. It is just a great journey. I’ve grown so much.”
“You can see the growth. You know you’re doing a meaning full job. I would recommend fostering to everyone. Even if you’re on your own, I’ve got four high needs kids and I care for them perfectly with support from Key Assets.”
Key Assets provides foster carers with 24/7 support, on-going training, a dedicated social worker, an allowance and a weekend of respite every four weeks.
If you are interested in becoming a carer with Key Assets, visit www.iwanttofoster.com.au or call Key Assets on 1800 WE CARE.