SHARE THE LOVE

New Zealand needs more fos­ter car­ers. Could you be one?

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS -

KIM & KEVIN MC­NA­MARA live with three of their own chil­dren and Luke*, their fos­ter son KIM My jour­ney to be­com­ing a fos­ter par­ent goes right back to when I was 15. I have al­ways wanted to be able to help a child in need. I have been mar­ried for 30 years and have four chil­dren of my own, as well as one grand­child. It all be­gan when the ‘Key As­sets Fos­ter­ing Agency’ ad­ver­tise­ment cropped up on Face­book and I thought, you know what, I’ll find out more. Don’t get me wrong, I had my wor­ries, but my hus­band and I de­cided that we were strong enough and our kids have good self-es­teem. That was one year ago and we have now had Luke*, our fos­ter son, for seven months. Fos­ter­ing is like be­ing handed a 100-piece jig­saw puzzle, but you only have 20 of the pieces and 15 of those are pretty dam­aged. You have to try and fig­ure out how those pieces fit to­gether, what’s driv­ing some of their be­hav­iour and how you can sup­port that, whilst help­ing to change it. The chil­dren don’t par­tic­u­larly like them­selves and they’re full of anger and ha­tred for their sit­u­a­tion as they don’t yet know what else is out there, so they come with a few strate­gies of self-sab­o­tage. It’s im­por­tant to want to share your life with the child. In the first few weeks, they can iso­late them­selves be­cause they don’t know or trust you. But­tons are go­ing to be pushed; it’s im­por­tant to be calm and re­silient so you can build a sta­ble re­la­tion­ship. More of­ten than not, they don’t have a vi­sion for them­selves, so you need to have one for them. I work as a life coach and I be­lieve that any­one can suc­ceed, re­gard­less of their back­ground. The child can ar­rive quite dam­aged, but there’s noth­ing stop­ping them from suc­ceed­ing. My main mo­ti­va­tion is to see Luke re­ally suc­ceed at some­thing. Re­cently, he com­pleted the Weet-bix Triathlon. He was so chuffed that he was even go­ing and ended up to­tally nail­ing it and com­plet­ing all three parts him­self. He now has the medal hang­ing up in his bed­room. We’re try­ing to get him to fo­cus on the fu­ture and that it can be good, re­gard­less of past trauma. Fos­ter­ing is def­i­nitely so re­ward­ing, know­ing you can of­fer a child a good life. You have to be the epit­ome of sta­bil­ity, of love and com­pas­sion, as that’s just what those chil­dren need. They are re­ly­ing on you to keep it to­gether when they can’t. GIO­VANNI FABRICIUS & PART­NER, JOHN took on two sib­lings through Key As­sets Fos­ter­ing Agency. They also of­fered short-term care to an 11-month-old baby GIO­VANNI When I was 19, my aunt and un­cle passed away. They left two boys, Bruce and Arno, my lit­tle cousins. As they were or­phaned, I was left to care for them. My fa­ther was against it at first, but I wanted to honour the prom­ise I made to my aun­tie. All th­ese years later, John and I de­cided that we were at an age where it was time to give back. Not enough peo­ple are fos­ter­ing. In New Zealand there’s about 6100 chil­dren who need fos­ter care. Even though by fos­ter­ing one child we are only mak­ing a small dent to that num­ber, we feel good that we can make a dif­fer­ence to that child’s life. I also have two bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren, two girls, to a les­bian cou­ple who live in Welling­ton. One of them worked for the ‘Key As­sets Fos­ter­ing Agency’ and she said to me, “You need to think about go­ing into fos­ter­ing be­cause you’d be great.” We started to go along to work­shops about fos­ter­ing and we learnt so much. Now here I am, I’ve been fos­ter­ing for ten months, and I’m still learn­ing. I’ve dis­cov­ered that in or­der to be good and suc­cess­ful, you have to be com­pas­sion­ate, tol­er­ant and most im­por­tantly, you have to love kids, even when [they make it hard to]. When we were go­ing through train­ing, most of the fos­ter par­ents al­ready had chil­dren of their own. We were told that yes, we’ve brought up chil­dren, but th­ese fos­ter kids are dif­fer­ent, they have been through so much trauma. They’re dif­fer­ent. We all thought, “Yeah, sure, it’s just love they need,” but they were so right. It’s so much more than that be­cause you have to try and fig­ure them out. You have to be ready to give love. The funny thing is, the more love you show, the softer they get. Then the ag­gres­sion and the anger fades. The two kids we fos­ter, Felix* and Kate* are only a year apart, but be­cause of what they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced, the age gap seems huge. It’s fan­tas­tic to see them do­ing so well and mov­ing for­ward. They will never be rec­on­ciled with their par­ents, so we know they will be with us long term. We hope they will be be­cause we love them. The lit­tle boy, he wants to be hugged every night, hugged through the day, and when we go shop­ping he’ll hold my hand and say, “You’re the best daddy I’ve ever had.” I have to say, “Mate, I’m not your daddy but I’m go­ing to help you.” Kate* has grown so close to John and she loves him. She helps him out in the kitchen and they will cook a lot to­gether. You want them to be able to grow up as nor­mal as pos­si­ble, to have a happy life. They re­spond re­ally well to af­fec­tion and kind­ness. We also had a lit­tle baby boy here, 11 months old, in respite care. We knew what to do as we have looked af­ter our grand­chil­dren. We know the rou­tine and how to man­age him. Hav­ing that lit­tle baby was an ex­am­ple of a lit­tle kid that needed love. He re­sponded well, he was so af­fec­tion­ate. We would pick him up and cud­dle him. He loved to be loved. He never cried, he was a happy lit­tle mite. There will be days where you feel like you’re go­ing back 20 steps, but that’s all part of it. It’s not al­ways go­ing to be smooth sail­ing. They’ll test us now and again. Kate* will es­pe­cially test me or John to see how much we can take be­fore we both ex­plode. So we’ve got to have loads of tol­er­ance to tell her that she needs to calm down and when she’s in a nicer frame of mind, she can carry on with what she was do­ing. The big­gest re­wards are see­ing the kids set­tled, happy and laugh­ing. From when they first got here, to where they are now, see­ing them just en­joy­ing be­ing lit­tle kids has been the best part.

“YOU HAVE TO BE THE EPIT­OME OF STA­BIL­ITY, OF LOVE AND COM­PAS­SION, AS THAT’S JUST WHAT THOSE CHIL­DREN NEED” – KIM “THE LIT­TLE BABY WAS AN EX­AM­PLE OF A KID THAT NEEDED LOVE. HE RE­SPONDED WELL, HE WAS SO AF­FEC­TION­ATE” – GIO­VANNI

EMMA TOVEY cur­rently lives in Christchurch. She has fos­tered on her own since 2015 EMMA I worked in the com­mu­nity with kids and teenagers for years, so I was used to com­ing into con­tact with chil­dren who had high needs. A friend of mine was also fos­ter­ing at the time, so I ex­pe­ri­enced it first­hand. Due to this, I re­alised fos­ter­ing was where my heart lay and was in­ter­ested in learn­ing more. Sarah* has been with me for three years. She has high emo­tional needs and doesn’t have a sta­ble ed­u­ca­tion as she strug­gles to fit into group and so­cial en­vi­ron­ments. She is re­ally at­tached to me. We have a close bond and I’m re­ally start­ing to see her set­tle. Yes, we go back­wards every now and then, but she has come a long way. Peo­ple think that be­cause I’m sin­gle, it would make it dif­fi­cult, but I think fos­ter­ing has been a real gift. I’m not re­ally sure a re­la­tion­ship would have sur­vived the jour­ney I’m on at the mo­ment. I highly rec­om­mend sin­gle peo­ple to be­come fos­ter par­ents be­cause they of­ten have ex­tra room in their lives. Get­ting to see the im­pact that at­tach­ment and sta­bil­ity can have for a child is the most re­ward­ing part of fos­ter­ing. It al­lows them to be­come emo­tion­ally well. The longer they’re with us, the more we get to see them grow through coun­selling and the var­i­ous other pro­grammes we get to part­ner with. They be­gin to show their per­son­al­ity and see us as trust­wor­thy. Be­ing will­ing to tell their story can be huge for some of them. They also change in terms of how they re­late to oth­ers be­cause for a lot of the kids, the back­grounds they come from have taught them un­healthy ways of in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple. How­ever, the chal­lenges are mas­sive. Kids who have at­tach­ment is­sues will at­tach re­ally strongly and quickly to you, it’s quite in­tense. But you also get the op­po­site of that where they will pull away and at­tack you ver­bally. It’s all part of the trauma they have had in their lives. That’s why the most im­por­tant qual­ity for any fos­ter par­ent is re­silience. You get pushed fur­ther than you would ever imag­ine, so you need to be able to heal from that over and over again, in or­der to keep go­ing. Not every­body is able to do that. I was al­ways quite de­ter­mined to be one of the peo­ple that could stick to it, be­cause I know that hav­ing one per­son who stays through is the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing able to move on or not. If you can man­age to stick it out through the tough times, then you start to see them be­come more hon­est and more aware of their own be­hav­iours. They are able to look at them­selves and de­cide, “This is what I want for my­self,” and, “This isn’t what I want for my­self,” which is pro­gres­sive and cool.

“A LOT OF CARE­GIVERS GIVE UP BE­CAUSE IT’S SO CHAL­LENG­ING. I WAS QUITE DE­TER­MINED TO TRY STICK THROUGH IT BE­CAUSE I KNOW THAT HAV­ING ONE PER­SON WHO STAYS THROUGH, IS THE DIF­FER­ENCE BE­TWEEN BE­ING ABLE TO MOVE ON OR NOT” – EMMA

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