For many newlyweds, adventure beckons. But for Shauna and her newlywed husband, an unusual adventure called.
Not many forgo their honeymoon to participate in a foster care course, run by Wesley Mission, but that’s exactly what Shauna and her husband did. That was three years ago.
A lot has changed since then. Over the last two years, Shauna and husband have cared for four children, including their now 16-month-old boy who came into their care when he was just three months old. And what an adventure it’s been.
“He’s just sunshine,” Shauna gushes. “He loves going for a walk or run around the neighbourhood. Everybody knows him wherever we go. He says ‘hello’ to people and he will put a smile on anyone’s face.”
For Shauna, this journey towards becoming a foster carer began when she was a child. “I remember having a conversation with my mum, when I was walking along the beach, that it’s something that I wanted to do,” Shauna reflects.
So when Shauna met her now husband, she shared with him her deep desire to become a foster carer. “My husband and I talked about it early on and we both had that same mindset. We felt it was something we’d like to do.”
The journey begins
Shauna will never forget the moment she met her first foster child – just five days old, straight out of hospital. And at first it was dauting.
“It was frightening. I didn’t sleep all night, because I just was looking at him. I just felt a massive responsibility to do the best I could,” Shauna reflects.
But after a few deep breaths, Shauna began to embrace her role as a mother. And since then Shauna has thrived.
“Every second with him I enjoyed, he was just an absolute joy to have. I think there were moments that were extremely difficult, but when you come to that realisation that you’re doing something so monumental and that you’re helping another human.”
Not long after Shauna began caring for her first child, foster care laws unexpectedly changed to focus on restoration. Where possible, foster children are restored to their birth parents. Shauna’s foster child was one of the first restoration cases for Wesley Dalmar, Wesley Mission’s out-of-home care service.
From the moment Shauna met “her little person”, as she calls him, she went above and beyond to connect with his birth mother.
As Shauna’s foster son grew, so did his birth mother. “We watched his birth mum tick goals. The realisation that he was going to leave us to move in with her began to set in. But it was cool that she was getting there.”
At 16 months, that day finally came. Shauna’s foster son returned to his birth mum. It wasn’t easy. While Shauna felt she was losing a piece of her heart, she knew deep down this was the right decision for her foster son.
“I think I coped with it better than anyone in my family, even though I probably was broken the most. I think if it didn’t hurt, I wouldn’t have been doing it properly.”
Wesley Dalmar Carer Recruitment Officer Kim adds, “It really takes a unique kind person to give a child back. I think that’s one of Shauna’s strong points – her understanding that she has set that little person up for life.
“You could not ask for a better carer. She always makes the child the central focus. And she puts the children’s needs above anything that she wants.”
And while he longer no lives with Shauna, he’s still “her little person”. Their relationship remains strong. Shauna sees him regularly and on occasion, he returns to his second home for a short stay with Shauna and her husband.
“When he left I said to him, ‘our home will be forever yours’,” Shauna says.
Kim says, “It’s the ideal picture of restoration to be able to maintain those relationships. She was the one who put those routines into place and records those milestones. So, during the restoration process, Shauna was able to impart her knowledge to help the birth mum with her son.”
Thankful for support
Shauna says she’ll be forever grateful to both Kim and Wesley Dalmar Team Leader, Johanne for their support during that difficult season.
“Honestly, that child’s life has been profoundly made better because of Johanne’s navigating of the situation on her end. And if I didn’t have Kim, I probably would have stepped out of that restoration case. Because I was, you know, struggling. But she was such a good support,” Shauna says.
While Shauna will always carry a love for her first foster child in her heart, Shauna’s heart has expanded with love her new “little person” – Shauna’s current long-term placement.
Now 16 months, Shauna enjoys watching her foster son hit new milestones. And along with learning his ABCs, Shauna’s teaching her foster son about his heritage. Both Shauna and her foster son identify as Aboriginal.
“I believe my foster son’s birth family is more culturally aware than my family was when I was growing up. So for me, I’m learning so much about what I’ve missed out on.”
And through an open, mutual relationship with her foster son’s Nanna, Shauna’s continuing to learn about her foster’s son’s cultural heritage, all while continuing to create that bond between their families. And their family bond extends to her foster son’s sister, who regularly stays with them.
Shauna says she’s thankful to be on this journey with Wesley Dalmar. Recommended by a friend, Shauna says she’s grateful for Johanne’s guiding hand through it all. “I have to thank Joanne because she’s a good boundary teacher, teaching me better boundaries of what I will accept and what I can do for people.”