Home away from home

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - REGIONAL EXTRA - By KYLIE WIL­SON

FOR chil­dren caught in the mid­dle of fam­ily up­heaval, abuse or ne­glect, a friendly face or a quiet space are among the things that can help them rest and be­gin to heal.

One such lo­cal friendly face is Lisa Detlef­sen, who has been a reg­u­lar fos­ter carer for Up­per Mur­ray Fam­ily Care (UMFC) for around a year.

A teacher, she said she de­cided to be­come in­volved in fos­ter care as way to help sup­port kids “who have a hard start in life” and care for chil­dren.

“I got into it be­cause I knew I could pro­vide a nice safe place,” she said.

Since she has been a fos­ter carer, Lisa es­ti­mates that she has cared for 11 dif­fer­ent chil­dren in to­tal, aged be­tween 12 months and eight years old.

She has also taken on dif­fer­ent kinds of care, from respite to short term and longer stays, and she said that while fos­ter care is not with­out its chal­lenges, it is ul­ti­mately re­ward­ing.

“The lit­tle ones need more phys­i­cal sup­port, while the older ones need more emo­tional sup­port,” Lisa said. “They’re just lit­tle kids who need a safe space. “It doesn’t take them long to set­tle in. “They want to be kids play­ing, same as ev­ery­body else.”

Her com­fort­able home is a haven for chil­dren in need, with a spare bed­room kept aside for them to sleep, a sunny yard and a small lit­ter of guinea pigs she cares for.

Lisa re­marked that the guinea pigs were of­ten a ther­a­peu­tic fo­cal point for chil­dren stay­ing with her, as they could play with them and talk to them.

When chil­dren are in her care, Lisa lets them play or spends time with them do­ing sim­ple things, and said that hav­ing a sim­ple rou­tine of­ten helps the chil­dren as well.

In all, she said the chil­dren be­ing with fam­ily mat­ters the most.

“The pri­mary goal is for them to be back home,” Lisa said.

“I get sat­is­fac­tion in know­ing that I’ve helped some­one.

“It’s just re­ally fun to have [chil­dren] with me, be­cause they’re re­ally sweet.

“They’re re­ally re­silient and in­spir­ing.”

She urged those con­sid­er­ing fos­ter care to get in touch with UMFC, say­ing that the or­gan­i­sa­tion wel­comed car­ers from all walks of life.

UMFC, who cur­rently have 80 ac­tive car­ers in the re­gion and see an av­er­age of 30 re­fer­rals a month, need car­ers and are happy to hear from any­one in­ter­ested in ful­fill­ing a fos­ter care role.

“Peo­ple think if they work, or don’t have chil­dren of their own, have a dog, live on a farm, or rent their home that these are hur­dles – none of these are,” said Jea­nine Aughey (re­cruit­ment, as­sess­ment and train­ing fos­ter care at UMFC.

“Cur­rently we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a de­mand for car­ers to sup­port sib­ling groups.

“We are look­ing for car­ers who are will­ing to care for mul­ti­ple chil­dren from the same fam­ily to pre­vent them from be­ing sep­a­rated.

“Chil­dren be­ing sep­a­rated from their sib­lings can add to their ex­pe­ri­ence of loss and grief.”

Even if you don’t think fos­ter care is for you, Jea­nine urged the pub­lic to con­sider do­nat­ing to Trust in Kids, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides fi­nan­cial sup­port for chil­dren in fos­ter care.

For more in­for­ma­tion, call UMFC on (03) 5720 0000, go to the web­page at www.umfc. com.au or see their page on Facebook.

PHO­TOS: Kylie Wil­son

GIV­ING BACK: As a fos­ter carer, Wan­garatta wo­man Lisa Detlef­sen reg­u­larly opens her home to chil­dren in need.

FURRY FRIENDS: Many chil­dren that Lisa cares for en­joy spend­ing time play­ing with, and car­ing for, her guinea pigs.

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