Over 30 children have taken refuge over the past three decades in Shaun* and Jane’s* home. Some have been brought in the middle of the night escaping from a domestic emergency, others have stayed for a short time and some for almost 20 years.

Starting life tough

‘The home situations of the young ones we’ve cared for over the years is very sad. Many have parents who abuse alcohol and other drugs, some have witnessed horrific scenes of violence a child should never have to see,’ says Shaun. ‘These experiences affect them deeply and give them a distorted view of life. We’ve tried to help all the kids in our care to stay at school or learn a skill so they can have a better life in the future. It’s not their fault, but a lot of them have very low self-esteem which makes it hard for them to cope in everyday life. But Celine* is different; she’s really working at changing her life.’

Finding a passion

From a family of 9 children, Celine was placed in Jane and Shaun’s care 3 years ago at age 14. A determined, self-trained swimmer Celine has swum in 9 school championships. Despite recovering from a knee injury, she recently won a Bronze medal for the Medley Relay race at the national schools swimming championships in Hobart. She also came 4th in two other races (50m and 100m backstroke).

Although Celine has a mild intellectual disability, Shaun attributes her greater self-esteem and resilience to her more stable foster care arrangements. Before coming to Shaun and Jane, she lived with an older woman for 5 years who introduced Celine to swimming. ‘Celine sticks at things and doesn’t skip school,’ confirms Shaun. ‘She has a boyfriend who’s top in the class in maths. He works hard at school and comes from a good family. He really cares for Celine and I think his commitment to his school work also rubs off on her.’

Celine stays in touch with her siblings and mother, but she is on a mission to travel a different road from her parents. With her sights now set on the Special Olympics she is hoping she will be able to get a swimming coach. The Special Olympics supports over 5 million athletes with an intellectual disability in 177 countries around the world. It’s a wonderful goal for young person.

Shining a beacon of hope

For Shaun and Jane, the children they care for are like their own and are always welcome in their home. With 20,000 children and young people needing out of home care in NSW, people like Shaun and Jane provide a beacon of hope. In the care of a loving and stable family, these vulnerable children have a chance to thrive and make a better life for themselves.

Are you ready to turn a child or young person’s life around? Challenge Community Services accepts married and de facto couples, including same sex couples, and single people as foster carers. To find out more please phone 1800 084 954 or email fostercare@challengecommunity.org.au. 


*Models used in photograph and names changed to protect privacy.

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