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We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. But when you are a foster carer it is even more important to have a support network of people around you who can step up and lend a hand when needed.

Jan and her husband Ken have been short term foster carers with CareSouth for the past five years. The Sussex Inlet couple are currently caring for a six-month-old baby girl who, like most children in care, had difficulty settling and forming attachments.

Jan and Ken were asked to care for the newborn after they had booked Grand Prix tickets for their son’s 40th birthday in Melbourne. As the celebration drew closer Jan was reluctant to disrupt the baby’s routine and newly formed attachment. So she insisted her husband attend, while she stayed home with the baby.

“The tickets were all paid for and then we got bubby,” said Jan. “I decided not to go because I didn’t want to disturb everything we had worked so hard to put in place. I kept thinking ‘my son will understand’.”

When the couple’s caseworker Peter Johnston heard Jan was willing to miss her son’s milestone birthday, so as not to disrupt the infant’s routine, he and the Carer Recruitment team swung into action.

“Peter insisted that I go to Melbourne,” said Jan. “He said to me ‘No Jan, you can’t miss this, it’s too important, you need to take that time and spend it with your family, we don’t want you to burn out’. And Peter was right.

“My son was so happy. He said to me afterwards that he would have really missed me if I wasn’t there.”

The Shoalhaven team reached out to Sanctuary Point respite carers Kirsty and Ian and introduced them to Jan and Ken and the baby girl.

“Peter is the most wonderful caseworker in the world. He and the Carer Recruitment team made all the plans to make sure bubby had the best care possible,” said Jan.

The two couples then set about establishing a month-long transition where they would visit each other’s houses in the lead up to overnight respite care so Jan and her husband could fly to Melbourne.

“Everyone needs time out every now and then,” said Shoalhaven Permanency Support Program manager Chris Stubbs. “And in this case it was really important that Jan and Ken were able to focus on their own family. That’s why it’s so important to have respite carers like Kirsty and Ian, who are willing to step up.”

Kirsty and Ian, who became carers with CareSouth 18 months ago after moving from another foster carer agency in the ACT, said the transition to becoming respite carers for the baby girl “was the easiest one we have ever done”.

“Babies don’t come with a manual, but this little one did,” said Kirsty. “Jan and Ken were so open and honest with her routine. They had a list of all the things they did, from the songs they sing to her at bath time, to the way they wrapped her at bedtime. And because the baby knew they were her cues for sleep time she settled in really well.

“We did a lot of meet and greets before the baby stayed over. It was a really smooth adjustment because we were able to establish a relationship over a period of weeks in the lead up to having her overnight. Usually it doesn’t happen like that, you get a phone call saying ‘we need a carer quick’.”

Kirsty and Ian continue to be respite carers for the six-month-old baby.

“We like having another little person in the house,” said Kirsty. “And our 11-year-old daughter is an only child so she loves having another child around.”

Jan said the respite care arrangement has been beneficial for everyone involved.

“The little one had a lovely few days with Kirsty and Ian and their daughter,” said Jan. “She’s clearly in love with them and gets so excited to see them. It worked out perfectly.”

There is no better time than Families Week to recognise and applaud the selfless role that carers like Jan and Ken and Kirsty and Ian, along with the hundreds of other carers in the CareSouth family, play in providing safe homes for vulnerable children.

For more information about becoming a Foster Carer call 1300 554 260.

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