Angela (Ange) and her partner Matt have been foster carers with Life Without Barriers for almost a decade. They provide long-term care and short-term care, and have cared for siblings during that time. The longest time a child has stayed in their care has been seven years, but sometimes, they provide care just for a weekend. They also frequently get visits from young people who are no longer in care, a testament to the relationships they build and the care they provide.
We sat down with Ange to chat with her about her experience of being a foster carer in Ipswich, Queensland, and what she looks for in a potential carer as a Carer Ambassador for Life Without Barriers.
What inspired you to start your foster care journey?
A few people in my family have been foster carers, but not for a generation or two. We thought we'd bring it back. When our children were old enough, we had a good chat with them and decided to just do it.
Do you have any other friends who are foster carers?
Not before we were carers ourselves. Now, we've made connections through foster care and events put on by Life Without Barriers, they are always so great to go to, to connect with other people.
How do you prepare your home for a young person to come in?
We try and learn as much information as we can before they arrive, which isn't always that much. And then we do what we can. We make sure that everything's clean and quiet and make sure they've got all the things they could need. This includes their own clothes, toiletries, and some snacks so they don’t have to ask for those things.
Image: Ange and Matt at the National Foster Care Conference in Hobart, Tasmania 2023. Ange is wearing a blue jumper and Matt is wearing a Life Without Barriers' Reconciliation t-shirt.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about becoming a carer?
What I always try and say to people is, it is ok to take your time and decide on your own. We had our worries, and everyone was saying ‘it's going to be too hard’ and we realised we were putting it off because other people were saying that it's too hard, people that haven’t been carers.
"In the end we said, it probably is going to be hard, but let's give it a go. And we are so glad we did."
Is there a myth about foster care you want to dispel?
That children in care are all ‘wild’ or ‘bad children’. That is just not the case, and a harmful stereotype.
Do you have any favourite moments from your experience as a foster carer?
I love catching up with kids that we have cared for. I love seeing them and hearing about their lives. We have a few young people who still come and stay with us sometimes.
Have there been any challenges that you've had to overcome?
Our biggest challenge is working through the out-of-home-care system. Working with the agency (Life Without Barriers) has been great. But there are some barriers in the system we have to work through.
What support do you receive from Life Without Barriers?
They are honestly amazing and get us through everything. They're our first point of call. As soon as something happens, we can just get straight on the phone and the team will work with us until it's sorted out.
We have a Child and Family Practitioner and we've got our cultural supporter, but it's also everybody in the Ipswich team. It is just a good place that I can always have somebody to go to if I need to for any reason.
Can you tell us about Cultural Support?
Of course, we have an Aboriginal boy in our care at the moment and have been designated an Aboriginal Cultural Support Worker through Life Without Barriers. She helps us with all things culturally centered and helps us with any questions we have, helps us with plans, with everything really. She's one of our go-to people for support and guidance.
What is your relationship like with the family?
It is great! We and their nana and papa do lots of things together, including birthdays. We currently share care with his mum. He is with her three nights a week and with us four nights a week and we communicate nearly every day.
"Mum has done amazing things to keep her children safe."
She had to make some hard decisions to remove them from violence. So, she's had to kind of build new supports around her, which includes us.
We are doing what we can to try and get these kids back home, and to support them as much as we can along the way.
Can you explain what reunification is?
The goal is of course reunification, but if not, we are here to support and to help as long as we are needed.
We're looking after these children until reunification with their families. At the moment, their parents don’t have the means to have the children back full-time. So, until that happens, we take care of the children and try and work with the parents, Life Without Barriers, and the Child Safety Department and try and make that a smooth process for the children.
As well as being a foster carer, Ange is also one of Life Without Barriers’ Foster Care Ambassadors.
In my role as an ambassador, I help Life Without Barriers by going out in to the community in Queensland and talking to other people about becoming carers and what it is all about. People can ask me questions, and I have the real-life experience to be able to help them make decisions.
What do you look for in a foster carer?
We are looking for people with a passion for helping children and people who are prepared to go the long haul. Someone who is trying to do what they can to help children.
How did you become a Foster Care Ambassador, and what does your role involve?
Life Without Barriers asked, they put a call out to current carers and asked who would like to do it. I thought about it and gave it a go. Now I love it. I love going to work, I love everything about it.
At the moment, there are just not enough foster carers in Ipswich at all. A lot of children are going into residential homes, including younger children, which is not ideal at all. We're desperate for all types of carers at the moment, and I like helping close that gap.
"We really need people who are willing to provide care, for short term, long term, whatever, we need them all!"
Life Without Barriers Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan
Life Without Barriers' commitments to Reconciliation are outlined in our Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The RAP includes our Transformation Project which is our commitment to progressively step away from providing out-of-home care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children over the next ten years by transitioning them into the more culturally safe and appropriate care of family, community and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
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.