Giv­ing chil­dren in need a place to go

“Just give it a go” lo­cal foster car­ers urge

Mansfield Courier - - OPINIONS / PEOPLE - By RHYLL McCOR­MACK

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

HAPPY TO HELP: Ann-Marie and Ian Fletcher have just started their ca­reer as foster car­ers, and are en­joy­ing every mo­ment.

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