Fos­ter­ing a happy life­style

Ev­ery­one is a win­ner in this ‘fab­u­lous’ nine-child fam­ily More than 3800 New Zealand chil­dren are in fos­ter care, and Child, Youth and Fam­ily are seek­ing more fos­ter car­ers. Karo­line Tuckey talked with a fos­ter mum about the joys and chal­lenges of the rol

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

Anne’s only re­gret about fos­ter­ing chil­dren is she did not start sooner.

Anne and hus­band Neil be­gan about 12 years ago, when their four old­est chil­dren had moved out of home.

They were not done be­ing par­ents, but were not ex­pect­ing to have any more chil­dren. So when they came across a no­tice seek­ing fos­ter par­ents they de­cided to look into it.

Scores of chil­dren have since crossed their doorstep.

The house­hold con­sists of five per­ma­nent chil­dren aged be­tween 7 and 16 – one a late ar­rival of their own, as well as reg­u­lar tem­po­rary place­ments.

‘‘All nine kids we have got now are ab­so­lutely fab­u­lous, they are just amaz­ing kids, we couldn’t have asked for bet­ter,’’ Anne says.

‘‘Some are here for re­spite, and some stay longer, and some stay and don’t leave . . . we’ve had about 15 this year.’’

The cou­ple love their full-to-therafters, rol­lick­ing fam­ily life.

‘‘ I’ve heard a lot of fos­ter par­ents say their friends think they are mad, tak­ing on young chil­dren, but once peo­ple have met the kids . . .

‘‘It’s just been ab­so­lutely fab­u­lous, I’d fully rec­om­mend this to any­one.’’

Fam­ily, friends and their church have been sup­port­ive, Anne says.

‘‘That makes it eas­ier, hav­ing that faith, know­ing that God’s there do­ing his bit be­hind the scenes.’’

CYF con­trib­utes a board pay­ment for each fos­ter child which cov­ers ba­sic costs, but Anne says the fam­ily are lucky Neil has a good job and can sup­ple­ment that so all the chil­dren can have some of the things their peers have.

‘‘You want them to be able to look good and have nice things, and they de­serve it.

‘‘It’s not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, you’ve got to be able to share your life, you’ve got to be pre­pared to not have the life­style you may have had if you didn’t have kids in it.

‘‘But it’s a life­style we’ve cho­sen and there are fun sides to it too.’’

Run­ning a large house­hold has not been as chal­leng­ing as it might seem, she says.

‘‘You just all work in, we get through three or four loads of wash­ing ev­ery day, and you get to know how full the potato pot has to be, and . . . it’s not hard.

‘‘Our older two are mar­vel­lous, they’ll read to the lit­tle ones or get the din­ner ready or or­gan­ise show­ers, so it’s a team ef­fort.’’

The cou­ple were given thor­ough train­ing, and the on­go­ing sup­port they re­ceive from CYF so­cial work­ers is in­valu­able, Anne says.

‘‘We knew ab­so­lutely noth­ing about fos­ter­ing.

‘‘We thought that th­ese chil­dren were the kids that were really, really naughty and that’s why they couldn’t live with their fam­i­lies, and it’s turned out to be the op­po­site.

‘‘Peo­ple don’t re­alise how vul­ner­a­ble th­ese kids are.

‘‘They can be coming to you for a num­ber of rea­sons, ne­glect, abuse, home alone.’’

Though it can be de­mand­ing emo­tion­ally, the re­wards as they see the chil­dren de­velop are huge.

‘‘ Some of them come quite re­served and a bit anx­ious, it can make them with­drawn.

‘‘A lot have at­tach­ment dif­fi­cul­ties, some are an­gry, a lot of them have taken over a parental role, so they kind of find it hard to slide back into be­ing the child.

‘‘But you get them mak­ing progress on lit­tle things . . . things that your own kids do au­to­mat­i­cally, and once they get into an es­tab­lished rou­tine, all of a sud­den they are brush­ing their teeth with­out be­ing told, and in­ter­act- ing, and laugh­ing, and they slide in and be­come part of the fam­ily.’’

Though there are the quar­rels that will al­ways hap­pen with a host of dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, Anne says they have never had any chil­dren who have yelled and screamed, and never even heard of vi­o­lent or dan­ger­ous chil­dren among the lo­cal net­work of fos­ter car­ers.

‘‘Once peo­ple have met the kids they find out that they are just chil­dren, no dif­fer­ent to your own.’’

The chil­dren are en­cour­aged to keep up their re­la­tion­ships with their par­ents and sib­lings, and where suit­able there is an open door pol­icy for vis­its to the house.

‘‘I don’t think enough peo­ple think about fos­ter­ing,’’ she says.

‘‘I don’t know if peo­ple think about it, but if there are not enough fos­ter par­ents then those kids stay there.’’

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