When you think of family, what comes to mind?
Do you think of your parents? Your own children? Siblings or cousins?
Family can mean blood ties, but it can also be the people that you choose, something that you build, and can be defined in terms of the people you love and who you know will love you no matter what.
When people think of family they don’t usually think of foster care.
But children and young people in foster care can be in the most desperate need of love and acceptance – the things we usually find in our families.
Children enter foster care through no fault of their own, simply because their birth family is unable to look after them.
In NSW there are over 20,000 children and young people in need of care, but fewer than 13,500 households are authorised to provide it.
Stretch-A-Family is a Sydney-based foster care agency that’s always looking for new foster carers to keep up with this need.
They provide full training and ongoing support to all their foster carers.
“Biology doesn’t really come to mind when I think of family”
“Biology doesn’t really come to mind when I think of family”, says Paula*, a foster carer with Stretch-A-Family.
She cares for her 5-year-old biological daughter, Emma*, and 18-month-old foster son, Will*.
“I asked my daughter what family means to her and she said being kind to each other and loving each other,” says Paula.
“Emma has loved Will ever since she laid eyes on him. They play and laugh together and have their own way of communicating. She tells everyone that he’s her brother.”
Some people worry they could not love a child that was not their own, but the experience of countless foster carers shows that it is love that makes a family.
Some people worry that they would get ‘too attached’ to be able foster but, paradoxically, that is exactly what children in foster care need!
They need to learn how to attach, they need that connection, they need to know they are loved and accepted.
For an adult, knowing that a child may only be in your care for a while can be scary, but imagine being a child and not knowing if anybody loves you?
Foster care is about doing the best thing by the child – loving them – no matter how long they are in your care.
“What I love about being a foster carer is knowing that I’m making a difference in Will’s life”
“It’s also shaped my and Emma’s perspectives in a positive way. She’s learnt that not all kids have stable homes and has built an understanding of the world outside herself.”
Could you broaden your definition of family wide enough to open your heart and home to a vulnerable child?
There are different kinds of foster care, and there is a type to fit in with your lifestyle and household commitments.
Some children stay in foster care for only a few weeks until extended family can be located to take care of them.
Some children stay in foster care until they are 18 and become independent.
And some children in foster care can be adopted by their carers to become legally part of a new family.
Stretch-A-Family is happy to help you think through what the best option would be for you and your family.
If you have a spare room, and the willingness to help, their team would love to hear from you!
Find out more today, or give Stretch-A-Family a call during office hours on 9569 6933
*Names & picture have been changed to protect privacy