Standing in a park alongside the Werribee River, the sun shining through the trees, Belinda knew without a doubt that being a foster carer was what she was supposed to be doing.
“It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning. I’d taken a 14-year-old boy [in my care] for a walk. His eyes just lit up. It was like he’d never been in nature before. He said, ‘Thank you so much for bringing me to this place.’ It’s the simple things.”
Three years into her journey with Life Without Barriers, Belinda has been an emergency and respite foster carer to 10 children – and counting.
While Belinda is open about the challenges that come with being a foster carer, she says the small moments are what make it all worth it.
“One of the most heart-warming moments was overhearing a seven-year-old boy in the backyard, chatting away to himself. He’d only been with me for two days but he said, ‘I feel like this is my own home.’
“Later, 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. He was such a loving boy, with so much emotion.”
"He said to me, ‘Thank you so much for bringing me to this place.’ It’s the simple things."
Working a full-time, corporate job didn’t stop Belinda from living out her dream of becoming a foster carer.
“[Beforehand] 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. When I heard that a friend of mine had signed up to be a foster carer, I thought, that’s it!”
From a big family herself, Belinda wanted to help other children simply be children, and enjoy the safety and security that a happy childhood can offer.
Already a dedicated aunt to her nine nieces and nephews, Belinda had a lot of practice when it came to caring for young children. But she also recognised the extra effort that goes into being a foster carer.
“I take a lot of time to read children’s 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, the park, take a train ride to the city, or fishing.”
Part of a new generation of young foster carers, Belinda believes her single status is a big advantage. “I can give each child a lot of precious one-on-one time and really focus on their needs.”
Big on self-development, which she attributes to her corporate life, Belinda admits that she learns something from every placement. She then takes those learnings on board so she can provide a better experience each time, for every child. Belinda’s advice to anyone thinking about becoming a foster carer?
“Do it! There’s the personal reward of providing care for a child. There’s a lot you learn about yourself as a person. You find strengths you never knew you had.”
Belinda is passionate about spreading the word that you can make foster care work around your life and other demands.
“I think there’s a misconception that foster care means adoption and that all placements are permanent. People don’t realise there are different types of foster care and 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 when things get tough, Belinda knows she’s not on the journey alone.
“[As a foster carer] you’ve got the full support of the Life Without Barriers Care Team to get you through.”
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