Meet Tara, a local mum of three children and occasionally an extra baby from time to time. Tara is a foster carer for Barnardos Australia and shines a light on what it’s like to be a Foster Mum.
How long have you been a foster carer for?
We’ve been foster carers with Barnardos for three years and we’ve looked after six children in that time. My kids are nine, eight and five and we look after babies. I first considered it when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten and one of the school mums was a foster carer. My daughter asked me how this mum had suddenly brought a new baby to school without having a fat tummy! I explained to her that fostering means caring for babies when their parents can’t look after them and she said: “Mum you’d be really good at that, you should do it.” However, my husband wasn’t so keen.
How did you win your husband over?
When my youngest child was about two, I wanted to do something for myself. I tried to get a job, but I just couldn’t find work with flexible hours. My husband works pretty long hours, so I have to be available to do the school pick-ups and drop offs. I talked to my husband again and said I really wanted to do something bigger than me. Bigger than us. I appealed to his sense of doing something greater and something for other people in the community and he won him over.
What is the process of becoming a carer?
We then started the process. Two lovely ladies from Barnardos came to our home and dropped off some information and paperwork at the start of December. We got out first placement in August the following year, so it took about nine months. The interview process is very in-depth, and it really made us self-aware. It actually brought us closer together – it helped us understand ourselves a lot better.
How does fostering work for your family?
Fostering is perfect for me because it uses my parenting skills and the child just fits into our lives, they go where we go! School runs, dancing, sport, you name it!
It does so much for my children. The kids love the babies – they love interacting with them. My son falls in love with them the minute they arrive. To see him patting them and singing to them just makes my heart melt. My oldest daughter is wonderful and helps me bathe and feed the babies.
We couldn’t teach them what they learn from this. That you can love someone so much for nothing in return. Its such an important lesson to learn early in life. To give back. I think it will help them grow up into well adjusted adults and their teachers have commented how empathetic and compassionate they are now.
My husband is just wonderful with the babies. I didn’t think I could love my husband any more than I did, but the way he loves these kids just blows my mind. He is very hands on. He’s gentle and kind and a great male role model for them.
What has fostering taught you?
We’ve also learnt a lot from getting to know the birth parents and the struggles they have faced in life. Some of them have very hard lives and no support. Fostering has taught me that life isn’t black and white. People aren’t simply good or bad, right or wrong. Everyone is struggling with their own demons. Most of the time its mental health problems and lack of support. Its not necessarily that they are bad parents, they just have no support.
How do you say goodbye?
It is hard to say goodbye when the time comes – but all we want for these babies is that someone will love them as much as we do. I’ve restored a child into the care of their uncle and aunt, and another child to permanent carers who went on to adopt the child. We still keep in touch and its wonderful to see them blossoming as a family. I feel very privileged to have been part of their lives.
What is it like being a carer for Barnardos Australia?
Barnardos are fantastic. Nothing is too hard. If my kids are sick or I need help, they work with you to make it easier for you. Because as they say, if we aren’t looked after then who’s going to look after the kids?
Also, importantly, the other Barnardos foster carers are a brilliant bunch of people and we go out to dinner and catch up with each other regularly. Sometimes only other carers really understand what you’re going through and so we give each other advice, we’ve always got someone we can talk to and ask for help.
Apart from getting married and having my children this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. If you are thinking about it –I urge you to at least make the phone call and find out more. What have you got to lose?
If you have thought about being a foster carer, please give Barnardos Australia a call on 1800 663 441 or visit their website Barnardos.org.au/wecare