"As a foster carer, I believe all children must know their background and where they come from."
Barbara has a background in disability and mental health nursing and had been a foster carer for Life Without Barriers for several years before she was asked if she would take on full time care of a four year old boy with disability and challenging behaviours.
"That decision process was very easy to make because I’d worked with children and young adults with disability and," Barb said. "I said then and there, ‘yes I’ll do it,’ because it was something that I always wanted to do."
"I took this young boy in at the age of four and the journey has been very hard because he has autism and ADHD and OCD and any other DDs you want to put with it, and so my whole life had to change so that his life could be better," Barb continued.
Barb was told that he would never be able to walk or talk, or be able to participate in mainstream society.
"And so I said ‘not on my watch.'" Barb has done intensive work with the young boy on his communication, his physical abilities, and his ability to follow instructions, which enabled him to attend a mainstream school.
That four year old is now a teenager and has been with Barb the whole time. "With having the young boy in my care over the years, we’ve had many laughs and it’s so rewarding for me to know he can succeed out there."
"We’ve had a lot of fun times together. We go out for coffee and we go to the movies together – he loves the movies – and he will help cook because he likes to cook."
Barb’s passion for being a foster carer – and she has cared for 26 children over the years – stems from her own experiences. She was removed from her own family as a girl and split up from her brother and sister. "I decided to be a foster care because I was in a very horrible situation as a foster child and I wanted to be able to make life better for somebody."
"As a foster carer, I believe all children must know their background and where they come from. I believe it defines their identity of who they are," she said.
Barb is a proud Gamillaroi woman – but she did not even realise until seven years ago, when she started looking into her family history. Barbara has since been immersing herself in finding her relatives and learning about her culture, but she says that making sure children in her care know where they come from and are connected with their culture and family has always been important to her.
"Growing up in foster care myself and not realising until later in life that I found out that I was Aboriginal and I found photos of my grandfather and my father and where they came from and what tribe I belonged to, and so having a child with a multicultural background in my care, I wanted to teach him that this is his culture, this is where he came from, to enhance and encourage him to have an excitement and a strength about his belief of where he came from."
Barb urges anyone who is interested in becoming a foster carer, particularly those who would be suited to caring for children with disability, to find out more information and see if it’s right for them.
Andrea and Colin
Long term care for kids with complex needs
With three boys having flown the nest, carers Colin and Andrea felt like they still had a lot of love to give. They now care permanently for two primary school age children.
Gillian and Greg
Intensive care for a child with behavioural needs
Gillian and Greg are a married couple from Queensland who provide intensive long-term care for a girl with complex behaviours.