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Edition 2, 2022
With the support of her friends, family and neighbours, big-hearted Shauna has fostered eight children through respite and emergency care, long-term placements and now guardianship.
“Respite is mostly for other carers, to give them time off to have a break and a bit of a rest.” Shauna explains, referring to looking after other carers’ foster children for short stays.
“It’s a bit of fun, because it changes the dynamic in my house for the weekend.”
Another memorable care experience was looking after two sisters for about six weeks on an emergency placement.
“The description of the girls was, ‘very energetic’”, Shauna recalls with a laugh. “So we spent about three hours a day at the beach running off that energy!”
As an only child herself, caring for these sisters was a huge eye-opener for Shauna of the importance of keeping siblings together in out-of-home care.
“They loved as hard as they fought.”
While their child is in foster care, parents can make changes with the help of their extended family, community and professionals to be able to provide a safe and caring home for their child permanently.
Permanency gives children a better chance at living happy and independent lives as adults –so where it’s safely possible, foster children are restored to their birth family.
Shauna’s first foster child was a long-term placement, and one of Wesley Dalmar’s first family restoration cases.
“When I first saw him and his birth mum together, it changed my perspective on what caring looked like for me,” Shauna explains.
“I learned that it wasn’t just about the sweet little person who was in my arms, but I also get the opportunity to love his mum.
“I know now that I couldn’t love these children if I didn’t show love to their families”
As Shauna’s foster son grew, so did his birth mother. “We watched his birth mum kick goals. It was cool that she was getting there.”
Sixteen months later, she was ready to care for her son full-time again and he moved back home.
Shauna was able to help the birth mother during the restoration process, to keep up her son’s routines and records of his milestones.
“When he left, I said to him, ‘Today your home is no longer mine, but my home will be forever yours’,” Shauna says.
“My thoughts going into it were to help a child, but I know now, when I can, it’s to help a family.
“When there’s no longer ‘us’ and ‘them’, there are better opportunities for ‘us together’.”
Where it’s not possible for a child to be safely restored to their birth family, permanent legal guardians may be appointed to ensure a stable, permanent home for them.
This has been the case for Shauna and her current foster child, little Leo*.
“When he came in the door and smiled, at just three months old, I just knew this wasn’t going to be a short story,” Shauna beams.
Shauna is very excited to become Leo’s permanent legal guardian, where he’ll move from the Minister and Wesley Dalmar’s care to her own.
Throughout this journey, Shauna has clung to a couple of favourite sayings to see her through the ups and downs. One of them is to ‘love more than you judge’ – and the other is to ‘check your privilege’, especially on the hard days.
“I don’t always nail it,” Shauna laughs, “And at the end of some really hard days I just say to the kids ‘Let’s try again tomorrow’”.
Thank you to Shauna for opening her home and her heart to children in need and inspiring us along the way.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
Shauna’s story illustrates the diverse range of fostering options available to care for children facing challenging circumstances.
But fostering isn’t the only way to care.
Wesley Aunties & Uncles is another program we offer in our communities, where volunteers can provide extra support for children who would benefit from having a positive role model to help grow their self-esteem.
These ‘Aunties’ and ‘Uncles’ invest in these children to provide mentoring, care and guidance.
Volunteering as an ‘Aunt’ or ‘Uncle’ is rich and rewarding work. Mentors have a special opportunity to open their heart and home to a child in need for one day or one weekend a month in the spirit of acceptance, friendship and understanding for both the child and their parent/s.
One of our amazing volunteers Aunty Liz says when she first joined the program, she thought, “What can I possibly do to improve the life of a little girl?”
But she explains, “It wasn’t until I met her the first time, that I realised that there’s a lot.”
Three years since, Liz and her ‘niece’ have shared some great memories together.
“We do everything from just hanging out and playing games, to also doing a few really great things,” Liz says.
“I took her to see Frozen: The Musical in the city, and she stayed with me for a night while we did that. We’ve also been to the Sydney observatory and looked through the telescope at the planetarium.
“We’ve got the same sense of humour, she and I. We laugh at funny words and have this sort of banter going between us that we have each time we meet, and we sort of catch up and laugh at the same things.”
Caring for children facing challenging circumstances in our communities isn’t just about becoming a foster carer. Find out more about Wesley Aunties & Uncles today.
*Names and image have been changed to protect privacy.
As Shauna mentioned, respite care involves looking after other carers’ foster children for short stays on a regular basis. This could be a few days at a time, a couple of weeks, or one weekend a month.
It’s a great way to support parents or other foster carers by giving them a short break from their caring responsibilities and helping them to feel less isolated. Respite care also provides children with a greater support network by having a ‘second family’ who look after them occasionally.There are other types of shorter-term foster care options available.
There are other types of shorter-term foster care options available.
Emergency care means being available 24 hours a day to accept a child in crisis. These placements can be overnight, for a few days until the child can return to their family, or for longer periods if needed.
Restoration involves caring for a child while being part of the team working with their birth family to ensure they can be safely reunited for the long-term.
Short term care means looking after a child while the court works out longer-term care arrangements. Depending on the outcome, the child will transition into restoration care with a goal of being reunited with their birth family when it’s safe to do so, or if that’s not possible, pathways into permanent care such as guardianship or adoption.
Julie has worked at Wesley Mission for almost 20 years and is currently the Manager of Carer Recruitment for the Hunter and Central Coast region.
Her team of Carer Recruitment Officers recruit, train and assess new foster carers to provide safe homes for children in out-of-home care.
“I began working with Wesley Mission in a totally new profession, and it’s provided opportunities I’d never imagined,” Julie says.
“I’ve held several roles and acted in even more positions, and was supported to explore supervisory roles, too.”
Julie says a significant milestone that stands out from her time at Wesley Mission “is the support I was given to complete my Bachelor in Social Science and Social Welfare, which has deepened my knowledge and furthered my career.”
She’s used all these experiences to give back to the community, having initiated and launched new programs and activities through her work, which she says, “provides me with a constant sense of achievement”.
She explains, “I feel connected professionally and personally to the many people I’ve met, and to Wesley Mission as an organisation.
“People have moved on, roles have changed, but the ethic and spirit of the organisation remains and grows.”
Julie’s favourite quote is “I can do hard things.” We couldn’t agree more – she truly can!
Thank you to Julie for sharing, and for doing all the good she can in all the ways she can, because every life matters.
If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer with Wesley Dalmar, or are curious about getting involved, register for an Online Information Session to find out more and ask your questions.
In the one-hour session you’ll discover:
There will also be an opportunity after the presentation to ask our friendly team your questions.
Book your spot at Thinking about becoming a foster carer? – Wesley Mission. We hope to see you there.
To learn more about foster care, here are a few resources that you might find helpful.