Meet Chloie and Steve
Chloie is an inspiring young woman who is studying primary school teaching. For five years until she started uni and moved on campus, she lived with foster carer Steve and his wife Vickie, along with her three younger siblings.
Chloie had been in care from the age of 10, but when she moved in with Steve and Vickie, she knew she had found her home. "It was scary but I knew that I would be going into a loving home. When I met them [Vickie and Steve], they were lovely," Chloie said. "They actually gave me a little welcome package and a little card that I still have today."
Chloie has even brought the card with her to read out. 'Dear Chloie, welcome to our home. We are really happy for you to come and live with us. We consider it a privilege for you to be here. Always remember life is what you make it. We are here to help, support care and love you if you will let us. Vickie and Steve.'
"It just touched my heart that they cared a lot about me. They had no idea who I was but they still went that extra mile," Chloie said.
Bringing together Chloie and Steve to talk about their shared experience was always going to be emotional, and Steve was clearly moved.
Steve said that it meant a lot that they were able to care for Chloie as well as her three siblings so that they could keep the family together. "It was heart-warming to see her reunite with one of her brothers and a month later another sister joined us and then a few years later another sister joined us," he said.
Chloie describes Steve as a "great big cuddly bear," she laughs. "On the outside he looks rough around the edges; on the inside he's soft as a marshmallow. He's very kind and caring and has always been there for me, whenever I needed it."
However, Steve never thought he'd ever become a foster carer, having never had children of his own. "For me, the idea of being a dad was, it took a while to get used to, but it sort of something that's come naturally I guess."
In fact, now Steve feels becoming a carer is the best thing he has ever done. "I remember reading a motivational book years and years ago," he said. "The happiest people in life are those that have purpose. I've come to realise that over the last several years that this is the purpose that my wife and I were meant for."
Steve and Chloie reminisced about the many fun times they've had together. "Every weekend we were going down the park, the beaches, sometimes to the movies. It was a lot of fun," Chloie said.
"I remember we went on a holiday to Forster and we had this really big sand dune and we were just surfing down it with a boogie board and it was the best fun. It was a great experience that I wouldn't have had without being with my carers."
Steve added that there were certainly challenging times. "Each child is coming into care with their own personality, their own experiences, and their own dilemmas. And the challenge for any carer is working through those situations one by one. Sometimes they're easy – you can have an answer in five minutes – some make take a year or every longer. The answers are there. As long as you keep your focus and keep your faith it's all about finding those answers to support the kids the best way possible," Steve said.
With four children to care for, Steve said that the support from Life Without Barriers is crucial. "As a foster carer, Life Without Barriers give us a lot of support. They give us training in different aspects, we have a care team of three to four people that we see on a regular basis that give us advice and guidance on what we have available to us to make life easier for us and to make life better for the kids, which is what it's all about."
When Chloie is asked what advice she would give to foster carers: "Listen to what they [kids] have to say, because they've been through a lot and they might have issues but if you just listen to them and understand their needs, everything should work out."
Steve is so obviously proud of Chloie. "Within the first year that Chloie was in our care, she got the dux award at airforce cadets and I remember my wife screaming out with absolute delight to Chloie on the parade ground," Steve said. "And then when we went to her HSC presentation, Chloie got the special award from the year adviser."
And now with Chloie studying to become a primary school teacher, Steve couldn't be prouder. "Chloie is an amazing person. She makes me want to improve my life because I've seen how she can improve her own life," Steve said.
Young person - care leaver
Kieren is a young man who works full time with plans to buy a house in the future. He entered foster care at the age of 12 and says his foster carer has played a big part in who he is today.