13 Jun Do you have a place in your heart and home to foster a child?
Evelyn Santoro, My Forever Family NSW spokesperson, says they hope to inspire more people to consider becoming a carer and to understand there are a variety of ways they can do so.
There are currently over 17,000 children living in out of home care in New South Wales, with hundreds of carers urgently needed to provide these children with a safe and nurturing home. “There is a range of ways people can help a child in need, who may not have the capacity to become a long-term carer, such as emergency carers, respite carers and short-term carers.” says Evelyn.
Virginia and Garry, short-term carers of 13 years
Virginia and Garry have cared for and provided a loving home for more than 50 babies and toddlers since becoming foster carers more than 13 years ago. The couple in their sixties have been married for 44 years, are biological parents to three boys, aged 42, 40 and 35 and grandparents to five.
When their children grew up and started to leave home, Garry and Virginia had the room to finally be able to become foster carers and provide children in need with the care they deserve.
As short-term carers, children stay with them from anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of years or longer. The couple has and continues to open up their home to care for young infants in need – loving them like they are their own.
“People say the kids are lucky to have us, but we think we’re the lucky ones. We really love it. It’s so rewarding.
“Some of these children are neglected, not fed or clothed and don’t even have shoes. It helped our own children realise how lucky they were.
Many of the children Virginia and Garry have cared for go home to their parents after they’ve been able to get back on their feet. Other children go on to be cared for by relatives or longer-term foster carers.
“Sometimes we meet their parents if they would like us to. I say to them ‘I’m just helping with your baby until you are ready.’
“It’s always hard seeing them go; a little piece of your heart goes with them. It’s comforting knowing they are going to a forever home and will receive the care all children deserve.
“We hear how the children are going and growing up and know they’re being well looked after.
Garry and Virginia also do respite care – helping other carers who might need a short break from the children they are caring for. They also occasionally do emergency care – helping with children who need a safe home at very short notice.
Virginia says even if it’s just for a night – you could help a child and change their life for the better.
“We had one beautiful little three-year-old girl overnight in emergency care who didn’t know what a kiss was. She was watching me feed the baby and I gave him a kiss goodnight.
“She was unsettled in a new environment and she was watching confused, so I asked would you like a kiss on the forehead goodnight? I always ask the children first.
“She had the biggest smile on her face. It was clear she hadn’t been shown much love or affection – little things we take for granted – such as a kiss, a compliment or care, some children have never known.
Virginia says every child is shown as much love and care as the next.
“Every child is as special as each other. We treat the children as if they’re our own. We give them the love and support they need to get them back to where they need to be – a long term, forever family.
“I’ll be a foster carer until I go – it’s the most amazing thing to be able to care for children – it really does change their life for the better.
Virginia says the challenges are outweighed by the love you have for the children.
“These children aren’t born into perfect situations – but a lot of the time they just need a roof, clean clothes, a warm meal and love.
“You need to give them the time they deserve – let them know they’re safe in a loving home.
Virginia says the training and support they have available to them as carers from caseworkers, FaCS (NSW Family and Community Services) and My Forever Family NSW is invaluable.
“If we need help with anything, they are there every step of the way. I keep up to date with all of the training and courses and they really do help you along this rewarding journey.
“We need as many foster carers as we can get. If people are hesitant to take the first step – once you give it a go, it’s hard to give up”.
Foster care – there are many ways to help
- Foster care – care for a child or young person, or siblings to live in a family setting with authorised carers who are not family or kin. A carer’s own children may live with them.
- Emergency care – when a child’s immediate safety is of concern they will be placed in emergency care (immediate or crisis care). Emergency carers may be asked to provide care of children of all ages, including infants and young children, at very short notice.
- Short-term care – provide young people somewhere to stay while parents or family are working on making changes, so their children can be returned to them.
- Long-term care – when children and young people can’t return to their family, and guardianship or adoption are not options, and then arrangements are made for them to permanently live with another family.
- Respite care – when parents and carers need a break from their caring role. Respite care is for short periods of time such as weekends, once a month or during school holidays.
Steps to becoming a carer
Contact My Forever Family NSW to find out how you can become a foster carer.
Carer support line
1300 782 975
Monday to Friday 9am – 7pm
Head to the My Forever Family NSW website here to learn how you can become a carer today.
Image-My Forever Family NSW: Katie & Alice