The important work of foster carers

As a mother of four Cathy always had her hands full.

Then five years ago she and her husband David made the decision to become foster parents.

Their life has become more hectic ever since.

“I always wanted to be a foster carer but my husband wasn’t that keen. He changed his mind and completely came on board,” Cathy said.

“I know I can’t help every child but if I can help one then I know I have made a difference.

“Our lives are hectic and crazy but we love it and we wouldn’t change it. We will be fostering children when we are grandparents.”

Cathy and David have four biological children aged 10, 15, 17 and 20. 

They also care for three long-term placements, three boys aged 4, 3 and 18 months. One short-term child is also living with the large family.

“We usually foster new born babies, some who had drug withdrawals and others’ whose parents can’t take care of them,” Cathy said.

“We originally began fostering new born babies because of space constraints – we had no spare rooms. My husband and I set up a cot in our bedroom for emergency and short stay babies.

“Since then we’ve had two extensions done to the house so we can keep three long-term placements.”

Cathy said it was exciting when she received the call that there was another child coming to stay with them. She also said it was sad because that meant there was a mother who had her child taken off her.

“On the one hand we are excited to look after a new child but we have to remember that there is a mother out there grieving,” Cathy said.

“If a baby is dependent on drugs then some liked to be cuddled, others don’t like to be touched, some like to be wrapped but all need to be loved and to feel comfortable.”

Cathy and David try to build a rapport with the child’s birth family.

“The mother usually gets supervised visits about two to three times a week so she can bond with their child. We send them photos and give updates,” she said.

Cathy said saying goodbye to their short-term placements was hard.

“Despite always knowing the child will leave, I still cry. It is impossible not to get attached,” she said.

“People always say to me that they could never foster a child because they would get too attached. Our role is to love them and keep them safe before they go into long term placement or are reunited with their parents.

“I want to give these babies the best possible start to life.”

Cathy said her long term placements would stay with the family until they were 18 or older.

Cathy said she would recommend being a foster carer and encouraged anyone who is interested to contact an agency such as Catholic Care Wollongong or Fostering NSW.

“So many more carers are needed and anyone can do it.”

Foster Care Week runs from Sunday, September 11 to Saturday, September 17. The annual celebration acknowledges the wonderful contribution made by foster carers across NSW. 

To find out more about how you can become a foster carer and make a difference in a child or young person's life, or call 1800 236 783.