"I think it’s an advantage that I’m a single carer without children of my own, as I’m able to give each child a lot of precious one-on-one time to really focus on their needs."
Working full-time in a demanding job hasn’t stopped Belinda from living out her dream of being a carer. She manages to make it fit with her lifestyle by doing weekend respite and emergency care. She represents a ‘new age’ of young professional carers from single-headed households looking to give back to the community.
Belinda says, “I had got to the stage in my life where I was in a good place. I was happy, secure and had the right work/life balance. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. I wasn’t sure what it was. I had always been involved in community and charity work and when I heard a friend of mine had signed up to be a foster carer I thought, that’s it!” That began Belinda’s now 3-year journey with Life Without Barriers, providing regular care for more than 10 children.
Belinda recalls with great fondness her wonderful childhood and upbringing. As one of four siblings, she loved being part of a big family and now has a strong connection with her nine nieces and nephews. Her motivation for becoming a foster carer was to support children to just be children; to feel secure and to enjoy life, so they don’t miss out on making the kind of cherished memories Belinda had growing up.
One of Belinda’s most heartwarming moments as a carer was when she overheard a young boy, aged 7, who had been living with her for two days, talking to himself in the backyard. He was saying out loud, “I feel like this is my own home!” Belinda was so happy that she’d been able to provide a safe and nurturing environment where he truly felt he belonged.
That same little boy handmade Belinda a gift she will never forget. “He very proudly handed me a string of Styrofoam balls, stuck together with some kebab sticks, with the words, “I love you”, painted on them. It was beautiful and straight from the heart. It has a special place on my kitchen buffet. He was such a loving boy, with so much emotion.”
Belinda is a very child-focused and strengths-based carer. “I take a lot of time to read my child profiles and understand their history. I get to know their likes and dislikes so I can plan activities that will interest them – like going to the movies, or the park, or a train ride to the city, or fishing. I think it’s an advantage that I’m a single carer without children of my own, as I’m able to give each child a lot of precious one-on-one time to really focus on their needs.” She is also big on self-development, which she attributes to her corporate life, and says she takes her learnings from each placement into the next one to provide a better experience each time.
Thinking back on some of the memorable activities Belinda has organised for children in her care she recalls, “I took a 14-year-old boy out for a day trip once. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. We walked along the Werribee River to the park, and when he got there, his eyes lit up and he stared in awe. It was like he’d never been out in nature before. I remember him standing up on a rock, looking over the river, with the sun shining through the gum trees. He said to me, “This is really my thing. Thank you so much for bringing me here to this place.” It’s the simple things they often miss out on.”
Her advice to anyone thinking about becoming a foster carer is, “do it!” She explains, “There’s the personal reward of providing care for a child. But there’s also a lot you learn about yourself as a person. You find strengths you never knew you had – like patience and resilience. And best of all, you’ve got the full support of a Care Team to get you through if things get tough.”
She continues, “I think there’s a misconception that foster care means adoption and that all placements are permanent. People don’t realise that there are different types of foster care and that there are different types of foster carers. Being a respite carer for school-age children suits my lifestyle. It means I can still manage a busy career and live out my dream of being a carer and helping children enjoy a full childhood.”
Short-term care for 6-11 year olds
For the last two years, 36-year-old Raechel has been providing respite care. ‘It's a great fit for my lifestyle and still gives me the opportunity to give back.'
Steven and Kim
Respite care for kids of all ages
When respite carers Steven and Kim moved to their farm they wanted to share the freedom, fresh air and great outdoors with children in care.