Giving children in need a place to go
“Just give it a go” local foster carers urge
ANN-MARIE and Ian Fletcher have recently retired to Merrijig.
Although they have owned their property for 25 years, it is only in the last two that they have been able to fully enjoy living in the Mansfield Shire.
But instead of doing what other retirees do – gardening, bowls, golf – the Fletchers have decided to become foster carers.
“We spent a lot of time working overseas and saw a lot of disadvantaged children, and we always said we would like to give something back,” Mrs Fletcher explained.
“It was something we’ve always thought about – we are retired now, we are home, and we’ve got the time.”
The Fletchers have just had their first emergency foster care placement.
Two young siblings came to them for four days.
The experience has left them keen for more.
“When they were here we rode the pony, took them up to Mt Buller, enjoyed being at home,” Mrs Fletcher said.
“It was a great experience, but it’s not about trying to change them or their world - it’s just about providing a safe environment; giving them somewhere safe and secure to go.”
Although the Fletchers are retired, it is not a pre-requisite for foster care.
In fact, almost anyone who wants to open their home – and their heart – to disadvantaged children is encouraged to.
In Mansfield alone there are single foster carers, families with children, married couples without, retirees and those who just want to help.
There are no age, gender or economical barriers to becoming a foster carer – the only prerequisite is a willing- ness to help those less fortunate.
For the Fletchers, the four months of training provided was perfect.
“It was a very thorough process,” Mr Fletcher said.
“Of course you can only know so much, you have to experience it to know if you will really like it.
“But the training allows you to ask questions.”
At no stage, even after training is completed, is there pressure to participate.
There is also no pressure to take children that do not match with your own family, or on dates that you aren’t available.
“The organisation was fantastic,” Mrs Fletcher said.
“It’s fulfilling, knowing you are able to help someone – I don’t know why more people don’t become involved.
“Anyone could do it; I think it would be great for families - for their children to see how lucky they are.”
Upper Murray Family Care celebrated Foster Carers Week last week.
During the week, they hosted thankyou morning tea’s and roundtable discussions.
More importantly, they implored more families in this area to give foster care a go.
The Fletchers are certainly glad they did.
In fact, the experience has been so fulfilling that their grown daughter has also decided to become a foster carer.
“All we want is for the children to leave here with a warm feeling inside,” Mrs Fletcher said.
“You aren’t going to perform miracles – you don’t have to.
“Even if you only do it once, it is one time you gave a child somewhere safe when they really needed somewhere to go.”
If you would like more information on becoming a foster carer, contact Upper Murray Family Care or go to their website at www.umfc.com.au
HAPPY TO HELP: Ann-Marie and Ian Fletcher have just started their career as foster carers, and are enjoying every moment.