"If you love children and have room in your heart and your home, then do it."
When you walk into Gwen's you are greeted by a warm smile, excited puppies and a cheese platter. This wonderful woman is simply generous and an amazing host. Oh, and a Life Without Barriers Foster Carer.
Gwen is the biological mother of five grown-up children and a grandmother to seven children. She has a big and growing family with two teenage foster children who are siblings. They have called Gwen's house a home for the last 6 years.
Gwen decided to become a full time foster carer after providing respite care for good friends who were existing foster carers. "I love children and it just went from there," she said. Her two current teenagers definitely keep her on her toes, but have provided her with many proud and happy moments.
"Oh my goodness - so many fun times, holidays and travel. Playing in Autumn leaves in Paris, water sports and quad biking in Bali, theme parks and dolphins in Queensland, Birthdays, Christmas, weekend adventures at Mt Lofty walk followed by a hot chocolate, our big crazy family all on a train going to an Adelaide Fringe show, Summer beach sunsets, the One Direction concert (woo hoo that was so much fun), and more recently Adele. The Hallett Cove boardwalk and the Boatshed Café is also a family favourite."
Gwen also glows when talking about the proud moments her two foster children have given her like "winning a medal at swimming, picking up a new puppy, completing a hair-dressing certificate course."
When asked about how to form a relationship with a new foster child coming into your home Gwen says, "Love and communication is the key with an abundance of patience, commitment, respect and honesty thrown in."
Gwen establishes a good balance of realism when it comes to family life in general and some of the challenges and hardships it throws your way at times.
"There are always some tough times and its how you work through those times and deal with issues that defines you as a person. We have lost loved ones and had to deal with that grief and loss. I have a very close beautiful friend that we class as family going through cancer treatment at the moment and one of my daughters has just had her 3rd miscarriage. So yes, life can be tough. As sad as that is, it shows you how important family and friends are and to love and support each other as best you can. Understand that we all deal with things in a different way and always be there for each other."
Gwen acknowledges that being a foster carer is not always a bed of roses, "Not every day is great, but the good far outweighs the bad. Know you are not alone, Life Without Barriers (LWB) are with you every step of the way and truly do have a wonderful network of support. I personally have been so lucky to have the best support worker at LWB ever, support from other foster carers, as well as my beautiful family and friends."
When asked what advise she would give others interested in going on the foster care journey she says, "Do all the courses offered - this gives you the tools to help your young person through the hard times. Other carers are a great support network."
Gwen's friends often say to her, "I don't know how you do it" or "you're crazy!"
Her response is, "Maybe I am! But I think I'm the lucky one to have these amazing young people in my life. If you love children and have room in your heart and your home, then do it. Your life will be changed forever for the better. Never a dull moment, I do love it and highly recommend it. It helps you grow as a person."
When asked about what being a foster carer brings to her life Gwen says, "Hopefully making a positive difference in their lives. Seeing them laugh and smile, being happy and successful in whatever they do is heart -warming. Just helping them to be the best they can be and hopefully being a positive influence on a day to day basis is what drives me. Being a foster carer delivers a busy life full of love, pride and laughter."
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.
Long-term care for kids of all ages
Barbara is an Aboriginal woman who has a background in disability and mental health nursing. Barbara has been a long-term foster carer for a young person with disability.