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
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.’’