Every kid deserves a terrific life, foster carers make it happen

The theme for Foster Care Week this year is Heart of Gold, and Illawarra foster carer Rebecca Kennedy has one. Rebecca and her husband provide short-term foster care, which can sometimes be for more than two years until a suitable, permanent home can be found for children and young people.

 The former lawyer and her partner have been fostering for six years and currently have two young children in their care. Their foster care journey began after Rebecca provided legal representation to parents getting their children out of the child protection system.

She saw first-hand the pain families experienced when their children were taken into care and witnessed the joy they felt when their children were formally removed from the system. Her work ultimately led her to become a short-term foster carer, supporting children and young people in CareSouth’s foster care program to either return home to their parents (known as restoration) or be placed with extended family as kinship carers.

When it’s time to let go

Rebecca and her husband, who have three biological children between them, are in the process of transitioning one of the young children they care for short-term into a kinship care placement. The child has lived with them for more than two years and has become part of their family. While it’s bittersweet, Rebecca is always happy to see a child returned to their family.

“I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t hard,” she says. “If you’ve built a relationship with their family, it’s going to be a lot easier; that’s why relationship building is so important. Having that established connection makes the transition from short-term care much less traumatic for everybody.

“Of course, it’s still very sad, and if you weren’t sad about it, you probably shouldn’t be a foster carer. These kids need someone to love and care for them, so you’re doing it right if you’re sad at the end of the day that they’re going.”

The difference you can make

Rebecca encourages anyone thinking of becoming a foster carer to make the leap.

“It is definitely needed,” she says. “There is a real shortage of foster carers, and you will definitely make a difference, even if it is just for short-term or emergency care. There are so many different types of care that can suit different lifestyles, and it is extremely rewarding, not only for the children you care for but also their parents. A lot of these families and parents that you work with as a foster carer haven’t had people support them, which can make all the difference in keeping that family together.”

Rebecca was in a similar position, with very few support networks, as a young single mum when she had her eldest son just before she turned 18.

“A few bad choices are sometimes all it takes for parents to have their children come into the (child protection) system,” said Rebecca. “One of the restorations we have been involved in was with a teen mum and I was able to tell her my own story of being a teen mum and show her that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“At the time, I didn’t ever think I would be where I am today,” said Rebecca. “I left school in Year 10 and did my law degree through distance education after I had children. I have a great job, and my husband and I have built a wonderful life. I hope my story helps other young mums think, ‘ok, maybe that is something I can achieve’. It’s another one of the reasons I am a foster carer.”

Every kid deserves a terrific life

Foster carers like Rebecca make a huge difference in the lives of children. CareSouth founder Jim McEwan, himself a foster carer, believes that “every kid deserves a terrific life”. Foster carers do this by creating opportunities children might not otherwise have, like learning to ride a bike, running under the sprinkler on hot summer days, or going bushwalking, camping or fishing on weekends. It could be as simple as creating a safe, calm environment for a child, or even coaching sport like Jim did and giving kids a chance to join a team environment.

This Foster Care Week, CareSouth is running a coffee cup campaign to highlight the selflessness of carers like Rebecca and her husband and to encourage more people to consider fostering and make an incredible difference in the lives of children and families.

From September 10-16, several cafes across CareSouth’s footprint will use CareSouth-branded, eco-friendly coffee cups to raise awareness of the need for more foster carers.

In the past week alone, CareSouth has been asked to find carers for more than 200 children across NSW. 

How you can help

Caring for a child or young person can be a very rewarding journey; if you are loving, caring, kind and respectful to children and young people and have the time and space to care for them, you already have what it takes to be a foster carer.  

Foster carers must also be willing to undergo training and background checks and have open conversations with CareSouth’s Carer Recruitment team so they can find the right match for carers and children.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, we encourage you to contact us at CareSouth via 1300 554 260 or www.caresouth.org.au.