At age 15, Maya* was shoplifting, drinking and smoking, and often missed school. She had already had many short-term foster care placements when she was placed with single foster carer, Jeannette*.

“I felt that building a strong foundation of trust was critical as Maya was in a highly emotional state,” says Jeannette. “I did need to set firm boundaries, like making her continue her homework when she was suspended from school. But I didn’t want to come down hard on her in an authoritarian way. Instead, I tried to understand why she was behaving this way and explain the risks so she could make better choices for herself. I wanted her to feel she could tell me anything, knowing I would try to help her without judgement no matter what.”

Maya gradually started to be honest with Jeannette and told her when she had slipped up and drunk too much, or had tried a particular drug. When she realised Jeannette would provide essential items for her, like toiletries and underwear, the shoplifting also stopped. Maya is now 18 and living independently.

Honesty, structure, consistency and a whole lot of love

“Life as a foster carer isn’t always peachy,” admits Jeannette, “But the children and young people in my care have really responded to honesty, structure and consistency – combined with a whole lot of love. I’ve also received invaluable advice from Challenge Community Services Caseworkers. They guide me on whether I’m taking the right approach, or give constructive ideas about what else I could try.”

From the beginning, Jeannette’s family supported her decision to foster and completely accept the children into the family without judgement. Jeannette’s mother even attended the Challenge Foster Care training with Jeannette so they could both better understand the trauma many of these children have experienced and the different types of care they need in order to thrive.

A strong advocate for what’s best

Jeannette obviously has a huge amount of love to give, a vital ingredient in foster care. But she is also ready to advocate for the children and young people in her care when they need her voice. “As a foster carer, you get to know the children in your care so well because you’re with them almost all the time”, says Jeannette. “It was important to communicate with my Care Team from Challenge regularly to ensure that I was supporting the children in my care the best way possible.  I just wanted to do what’s right for the child or young person in my care, and that was going to be different for each individual.”

Many children and young people needing out of home care have never experienced a safe home environment or consistent care. Quietly dedicating themselves to nurturing others, foster carers like Jeannette are making a real difference to the lives of children and young people in crisis.

Will you be the one to turn a child or young person’s life around? To find out more contact Challenge Community Services today on 1800 084 954 or email fostercare@challengecommunity.org.au

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

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