For Kate* and husband Aaron*, life was already busy as a household of five – including their three biological children Alex*, Jordan* and Charlie*. But the family has now grown to nine, as the couple are fostering four children.

Kate wants to share her story of becoming a foster carer to reveal the realities that a lot of children in crisis face, and to show how becoming a foster carer has changed her life dramatically – and ultimately for the better.

A long time in the making

Even before Kate and Aaron became official carers, they had plenty of experience working with children less fortunate than most as professionals. And it was a promise they made to each other in the early years of their marriage – to open their home to kids in crisis when their biological children were old enough – that kick-started a major transformation in their lives.

You could say that the journey of becoming foster carers was almost meant to be for Kate and Aaron, as they continue to give back to children in the community by opening up their own doors.

From little things big things grow

The process of taking on the role of foster carer didn’t happen overnight. Kate and Aaron were conscious of the impact it would have on the lives of their biological children, and they wanted to ensure the decision was one that would be positive for the whole family. A newer, bigger home was purchased to accommodate a larger family, as was a people mover to transport more than just three kids. Then the real work began.

“We initially started off doing respite care for long-term carers,” Kate says. “We thought this would be a good way to see how our family coped with adding more children. We thoroughly enjoyed this time, and after about 10 months we were approached to consider becoming long-term carers for a sibling group of four children.”

Life changed significantly for Kate in the years that followed, with trials and tribulations as well as emotional breakthroughs and a new outlook for her biological children. “They’ve had to share their Mum and Dad, as well as their home and their belongings. They’ve had to learn very quickly that their lives have been different to other children’s.”

Challenges and supporters

Kate says the experience of foster care has made her a much more resilient person, and it’s also helped her heart grow bigger. “I now have so much more to offer the families I work with because of my own experiences of parenting children with complex needs,” she says. “My faith has been my foundation, and it has deepened through the joys and struggles.”

Kate’s community has been with her every step of the way, from the initial days where her church friends built a meal roster so Kate didn’t have to cook for the first four weeks, to finding the ideal childcare and schooling options to help her new children adapt to normal, everyday life.

Breaking down well-worn barriers

But it’s her direct relationships with each of her foster children that brings Kate the greatest joy, and despite there being a million stories that spring to mind when she thinks about her big family, it’s the ones involving milestones that always shine the brightest.

“The stories that stick in my mind are the breakthroughs,” Kate says, “The smiles on little faces when they achieve something new that you’ve given them the opportunity to do.. The joy of watching my own children step up to the plate – reaching out, being mentors, teaching socially appropriate behaviour, giving cuddles to crying little ones.”

“That is my greatest joy. My biological children have had their hearts expanded to include vulnerable children, and that is a priceless reward.”

Kate encourages those considering a role as a foster carer to find out more. “There are children out there who need a stable and secure home. There are families who need support to stay together. Our society is measured by how we care for our most vulnerable. If we can’t provide homes for vulnerable kids, then that’s an indictment on our society.”

This Foster and Kinship Care Week, Challenge Community Services would like to acknowledge the commitment, time, effort and love that every foster and kinship carer invests and say… thanks for caring!

You can find out more about foster care and how to become a foster carer with Challenge by calling 1800 084 954 or email fostercare@challengecommunity.org.au

*Identifying details have been changed

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