All about happy end­ings for foster mum

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

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.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

– Foster mum Gil­lian Key­worth

Su­per mum: Pan­mure foster mother Gil­lian Key­worth doesn’t make a big deal of Mother’s Day.

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