Meet Andrea and Colin
With three grown-up sons now living out of home, family-focused South Australian couple Andrea and Colin felt their nest was especially empty. Followed by a redundancy that fast-tracked Andrea's retirement plans, the couple finally had the time and space to open up their home and become foster carers.
We sat down with Andrea and Colin to learn more about their foster care journey.
What made you decide to become foster carers?
"We'd talked about becoming carers for a long time and completed the initial training with good friends who were also planning to foster. However, I backed out at the time, I just didn't feel ready yet," recalls Andrea.
"But after watching our friends' foster child just thrive in their care, we felt we had the understanding and courage to finally give it a go."
Echoing Andrea's sentiments, Colin adds, "We’re only in our 50s, so we've got plenty of life to live and love to give – we're real family people, so with our kids gone, it just seemed a fantastic opportunity for us do what we could to help give some children the best childhood we could."
How have you overcome challenges while being a foster carer?
Andrea and Colin were initially placed with a young girl with high needs due to her trauma experiences. They don't sugar-coat the challenges of those first few months, as it is part of their foster caring journey that has led them to the dramatically happier and more fulfilling place they're in now. Two years on, the young girl in their care has grown in ways they never could have imagined.
"She used to really struggle to regulate her emotions, she was angry, violent, and we had to be very mindful of what could trigger her," reflects Andrea.
"That's all changed now – she's so much more confident, so loving, she's even in her second year of hip hop dance classes. After some extra tutoring, her grades at school have also gone from D's to C's and B's," she beams.
"She's also got a terrific memory – all my shifts at work, our birthdays, our holiday plans, she always knows what's happening when," adds Colin.
"I think it comes down to the fact she now knows this is her home, and she's accepted. We're very proud of her, and how much she's grown, we're just so lucky to have her."
How did your initial experience with fostering prepare you to care for another child?
After some time, Andrea and Colin spoke with the Life Without Barriers team about caring for another child. This time a young boy.
With the benefit of experience this time around, Andrea and Colin felt better equipped to manage the initial teething issues between the two children, as well as the boy's resistance to school life.
"He was very untrusting at first, he wouldn't even let me in his room to clean up or do his laundry," explains Andrea.
"School was a real challenge, too, he hated it, and there were countless suspensions."
But six months on and through patience, compassion and ensuring a loving and consistent environment, Andrea and Colin have witnessed another dramatic transformation.
"I think he's really taken to having a male role model around, he's a much happier kid now, playing his first season of footy, and he hasn't missed a single day of school this term," says Colin.
“He just really needed that stability and a bit of reminding that we’re not going anywhere, he’s safe, and we’re here for him.”
What would you like other people to know about being a foster carer?
Stressing the importance of using Life Without Barriers resources for carers, Andrea explains that no amount of training can prepare prospective carers for the reality and the rewards.
"Brace yourself – while it won't be easy at first, it eventually clicks into place, and it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, teaching you something new every day," she says.
"I'd recommend anyone just starting to remember to use the carer resources available, and really lean on Life Without Barriers, be really honest with them."
When asked if they would do it again, the couple is vehemently positive about their fostering journey, encouraging anyone who is able to also consider caring.
"it does take a little while to see the rewards, there's no textbook, and it's a hell of a learning curve, but it really is such a rewarding experience,” Colin said.
“I never thought I'd say this a year ago, but I honestly couldn't imagine life without them, I really look forward to coming home to them, they both bring so much light into our lives."
Got more questions?
Our friendly and helpful fostering specialists are ready to answer your questions. Whether you're looking to start the process, get some answers or want more information, our team is waiting for you to connect.