Sharon and Craig's story: Bringing families together
There’s nothing more special than watching a child run into a parent’s arms, after being separated for a period of time. That moment when a smile appears on a child’s face and they become giddy with excitement as their mum or dad gives them kisses and hugs.
For Sharon and Craig, this is their daily experience. As Contact Supervisors for Wesley Keeping Connected, these trained professionals are the connection point for children and young people, who are temporarily living in foster care, to visit their families.
Every week, Sharon and Craig can drive up to 1,000 kilometres and cover distances from Sydney, to the Blue Mountains and Newcastle, to transport children in foster care to spend time with their families. But they are more than just drivers. They’re a friend who cares about the child’s interests. They’re a listening ear when a young person needs to talk. And, most importantly, they’re someone the children can trust and rely on.
“It’s really rewarding getting children to their families for that period’s time. It’s the little things that you see. It can be a little smile coming from the child when you see mum’s hugged her or him,” explains Craig.
A typical day starts with picking up a child from their foster carer’s house. Sometimes Sharon and Craig can each have up to three young people at one time. Depending on the age of the child, which can range from a newborn up to 15-year-olds, Sharon will have a Wiggles or Frozen soundtrack or their favourite radio station ready for the road trip.
“We’re their safety network. We’re their first contact of being taken away from their carer,” says Sharon. “My aim is to just work with creating that safe environment for them. And creating that environment where they’re relaxed. If we create a safe and a supportive, caring environment, well then they know that they are free to be themselves.”
Sharon and Craig spend long periods of time in the car with a young person, as their foster carer often won’t live close to their family. This time in the car is pivotal to having a positive impact on young people’s lives.
“We never initiate talk,” says Sharon. “But creating an environment of trust and rapport, where they can feel comfortable, where if they want to talk they can.”
Craig adds: “I generally let them know that if they need any help to ask for it and that I’m here to help.”
Throughout the visit with the children or young person’s family, Craig and Sharon explain that it’s their job to ensure they are always safe. Whether they are taking a child on a field trip or spending time at their family’s home, protecting them is their top priority.
“I go into every visit knowing that I’m going to look after their children and it’s the primary focus,” explains Craig.
Ultimately, the long-term goal is to restore these children to their families. Sharon, who has worked for Wesley Keeping Connected for the last five years, says she feels privileged to have been part of many family restorations.
“I really do enjoy working with children because it really is rewarding. To see parents come through a challenging situation and to have their children restored back to them.”
While not every child is restored to their family through Wesley Keeping Connected, Sharon wholeheartedly believes in the success of the program.
“It can be a very heartfelt situation. Our job is challenging. It is emotionally taxing at times but the rewards outweigh that. I keep going for the families and children because that is just what gives me motivation. It may not be every family that’s restored but there are the ones that are. It still gives you that great reward.”