All about happy endings for foster mum
Gillian Keyworth has cared for hundreds of children as a foster mum but will be keeping things low-key for Mother’s Day this Sunday.
The day can be hard for young people who aren’t with their own parents, she says.
And their mothers are missing out too.
‘‘Little things like first steps – those are the things they miss. I shouldn’t be getting that. I love it but it’s not what should be happening in a perfect world.’’
The 63-year-old Auckland woman and her husband have been Child Youth and Family foster parents for more than 20 years.
It’s a learning experience for them as well as the children they look after, she says.
The Keyworths have had children who didn’t know what a carrot was before coming to stay.
Many are surprised to be told off without being hit and she has met toddlers who can swear better than most adults, she says.
One young girl in particular sticks out in Mrs Keyworth’s memory.
While they were joking around, the 6-year-old suddenly stopped laughing and said: ‘‘Don’t laugh! Mummys don’t laugh.’’
‘‘It’s really sad sometimes. It can be heartbreaking,’’ she says.
The Keyworths have five biological children and have taken life-guardianship of five former foster children.
They added five rooms to their three-bedroom home to fit them all.
It all started when a boy in her son’s class needed a place to stay, Mrs Keyworth says.
‘‘Before we knew it we were foster parents.
‘‘I think you have got to be a bit mad. You’ve got to have a sense of humour about it.’’
The couple now provides transitional care with stays ranging from one weekend to multiple years.
Child Youth and Family works with the biological parents of fostered children to make sure their homes are safe through counselling or rehab programmes.
Letting the children go can be difficult, but if they return to happy homes with their own families it is worth it, Mrs Keyworth says.
‘‘It is hard. They’re part of your family for a couple of years.
‘‘But you love them to bits and you want what’s best for them. It’s about happy endings.’’
She says she feels like more of a foster granny than a parent these days but cannot see herself turning away children anytime soon.
‘‘Foster parents tend to die with their boots on really. I don’t know any who give up.’’
Child Youth and Family spokeswoman Michelle Neil says Mother’s Day is about
it acknowledging everything caregivers do. ‘‘They’re the ones there all the time. A lot of them will give up their time at the drop of a hat.’’
– Foster mum Gillian Keyworth
Super mum: Panmure foster mother Gillian Keyworth doesn’t make a big deal of Mother’s Day.