Paul and Chris
"Children challenge you, keep you up to date with the world, and keep you active."
Meet Paul and Chris
"Look at your life. Think what it would be like with children. Assess your capabilities. Learn about trauma. Read, read, read!! Do whatever courses you can. Meet some other foster parents, attend morning teas."
Paul and Chris have been foster carers for Life Without Barriers since 2009 and currently have two beautiful sisters in their care aged 12 and 10. It's fair to say that Paul & Chris are ‘family oriented' with 4 of their own children aged 46, 36, 34 and 31 and current custody of their two grandchildren aged 8 and 10. For them the drive to become foster carers was about a sense of social responsibility.
During a career break nine years ago, Paul and Chris decided to use their time to do something else to help the community. Both being teachers, they were aware of the issues facing disadvantaged children and the idea of fostering captured their imagination. They felt particularly drawn to be trained as therapeutic foster carers, giving a home to children requiring additional support with behaviour management or who may have a disability.
"We believe in living a good life and modelling positive relationships. We foster with love, acceptance and taking the lead from the child, learning what their needs are. We are here to help them understand themselves as well as others," says Chris. "There are heaps of joyful times. Being on holidays and their appreciation of adventure and travel. Their love of coming home after being away. The days you give them bonuses for cooperative play. Seeing them playing with friends. Seeing and hearing our influence in their conversations and sense of humour. Seeing them show their true loving and caring nature, especially with younger more vulnerable children. And we love to watch them with the gorgeous little dog we got for the family in February," says Paul.
It is clear why Paul and Chris are such magnificent and special foster carers. The power of their own words when talking about it moves and amazes you, "The children are the highlight. They are at the cutting edge of life, the up and coming future of the world. They challenge you, keep you up to date with the world, and keep you active. When you've done parenting before, you also get a second chance to do it better," says Chris.
But of course with the ups come some downs and hardship, "Some children are very damaged. Do your best, hang in there, but be realistic. You have to be ok to help these children. Look after yourself. If it's too hard, realise the contribution you have given to their life. Every day lived well is a cherished memory. They will remember!" says a poetic and reflective Paul.
For those interested in therapeutic foster care, additional training is provided through Life Without Barriers. Their courses educate on how to create a therapeutic home environment that helps children overcome the effects of trauma, grief and loss. Paul and Chris are united in their belief that a good foster care experience in a safe and secure environment gives children a chance to build resilience.
"Through the training and support provided, you won't feel like you've been left on your own" the couple said. "Our LWB support person listens to us, gives advice and helps resolve issues. Their vast knowledge of the fostering system helps us every step of the way."
Jacintha and Eddie
Long-term care for 6-18 year olds
Foster care is something that runs deep in Eddie's family. Together with his wife Jacintha, they now have four children in their care who have been with them for 8 years.
Long-term care for 6-11 year olds
Grandmother and respite carer Elaine believes the relationships with the children in her care hinge on trust and respect.