"My carer has had a pretty big influence on who I am today."
Kieren is a young man living in Sydney's western suburbs. He's currently working for a plumbing supply company and has plans to continue to work hard and eventually marry his girlfriend of two years, have children and buy a house. Kieren says that his foster carer has played a big part in who he is today.
Kieren was in foster care from the age of 12, where he entered care with Rob* and his partner Diane*. Diane sadly passed away during that time, but Kieren remained with Rob until he was 18.
Kieren described what happened when he first came into his foster home with Rob and Diane. "When I first got there, the carers were very caring, they were open, they were accepting. Something I like to describe is they weren't sympathetic, they were empathetic. They understood what I'd been through. They didn't give me a lot of 'I feel sorry for you' kind of thing, but when I made mistakes they knew where I came from so they gave me a little bit of extra rope."
Kieren describes his carer as a "country man, who loved outdoorsy things." Kieren lived with Rob in a house full of boys and they would ride motorbikes, build go-karts, go iceskating and most importantly, have bonfires.
"One of my best memories was the bonfires. All the boys would get together, we'd muck around. We got to bond and we would sit there for a couple of hours having a BBQ – who doesn't love a fire."
As well as the fun times, Rob also guided Kieren through the challenges of his teenage years. "My carer has had a pretty big influence on who I am today. I can deal with people better because whenever I had a struggle or disagreement at school or with one of the other foster kids, he'd let us deal with it ourselves - but if it was going the wrong way, he'd come in and show us how we could better deal with the situation and next time when it happened we'd do it better."
"I remember one experience I did have where I got emotional, I got a little bit aggressive and tried to tackle Rob – but he didn't take it the wrong way. It was right when my other foster carer passed away and I got very emotional and I got angry at the world and I tried to tackle him because I was angry. The next day he let me calm down and he just didn't hold it to me – he just forgot about it."
Kieren tried to move back in with his family a few times, and when it didn't work out, he'd be welcomed back into Rob's home.
After he left care when he was 18, Kieren went through a relationship breakup and he got into what he describes as some "bad habits." Rob was there for him through this tough time and Kieren moved back in for a few years. "My carer helped me through that – he let me come back and stay with him and that was a big thing for me because he didn't have to do that. It gave me that time to pick up and get back on my feet and it was great."
Kieren still has a great relationship with Rob and sees him often – in fact, he recently joined him for his 60th birthday.
When asked what advice he'd give to foster carers, Kieren says, "Carers in general need to be open. There's a lot of different kids out there with a lot of different experiences. Within reason, we need help dealing with everything. We make life difficult but you've just got to be patient. We're going to make things hard – but a lot of the times we're actually really good."
Kieren concludes, "My foster carer helped me to get where I am now. I went through a lot and I would have struggled harder if I didn't have someone to support me. A lot of people outside foster care don't get how good it can be."
Young person - care leaver
Stacey is a young woman studying at University with plans to complete a social work degree. Stacey talks about how important it was to her that her foster care family made her feel part of the family.