Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents 72 SCOOP AUTUMN 2010
"During the three-month assessment, we try to
rule out potential problems in advance so by the
time we reach the end of the process, that family is
ready to accept a child."
The impact on biological children within a
foster home should not be underestimated either.
"We find that if those kids are involved and
on board with the fostering idea in their home, it
can be a very rewarding relationship for the foster
child. Other children are a fantastic asset in some
ways, maybe able to talk to the foster child in a
way that grown-ups can t. Biological kids also talk
about how great it feels for them to be helping
others and the wider community."
Some situations call for extraordinary levels of
commitment to the fostering ethos. Five brothers
and sisters were taken into care with Wanslea due
to chronic neglect in their home. The children
ranged in age from 14 months to nine and initially
they were placed in two separate foster homes
because there was no foster family with the room
to accommodate them.
Foster carer Melanie, who had the three older
children in care with her decided, in consultation
with the Wanslea social worker, that she would like
to help reunite the children so that they could stay
together in foster care. She moved into a larger
home and gave up her job to enable her to care for
all five children full-time.
"It was a while before the children settled in
together after being apart for two months," says
Stephan, "and the adjustment for
Melanie was enormous, but with
the help of our social workers
and family support workers, she
was able to cope with the busy
household that she had created."
The children settled down and thrived being
together again, their futures now inextricably
bound up with Melanie as it became clear that
they would never return to their biological family.
However, there is certainly no pressure to conform
to some kind of perfect parenting template if foster-
ing is being considered. There are many varieties
of care that families can provide, from short-term
emergency placements, to respite and holiday care.
"We try to fit children with fosterers so that both
sides are happy," says Stephan. "We are happy to
have foster carers who work, who haven t had kids
of their own, who are gay or straight, or perhaps are
now childfree after raising their own kids."
When a foster child arrives in a new home, there
is naturally a period of adjustment on both sides.
"It s like learning a new dance," says Stephan.
"The child needs to know what it can and can t
do. For instance, is he allowed to help himself to
a drink from the fridge without asking, or take a
shower every day if he wants. It s a special time
when new lessons are learned, a time to be perhaps
Many foster carers worry, too, about feeling too
strongly about the children in their care, becom-
ing anxious about the time when they may have to
give them back to their natural parents.
"It can be a tricky balancing act," admits
Stephan, "but one of my foster carers says she
tries to be like an aunty to the kids she cares for,
helping them compile their own life story, talking
about their families and maintaining links to their
past and, in some cases, culture."
There are many Aboriginal children, as well
as children whose families have escaped from
countries mired in conflict (in Africa in particular)
that Stephan places with families, and he urges
potential carers to not be put off by taking on a
child from a culture different to their own.
"We have some great support strategies for fam-
ilies to help them understand the different needs
these kids may have and to help keep cultural ties
strong for children in their care."
Just as some cultural groups may be dispropor-
tionally represented on foster agencies books, so
are some age groups.
"Carers for six to 12-year-olds are particularly
in short supply, perhaps because their behaviour
can sometimes be more challenging because
they ve suffered longer, more ingrained abuse."
Rebecca s situation is just one instance of a seem-
CARING: Wanslea's Stephan Lund (right)
and its foster carers aim to bring happy
endings to children in need of care.
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