"I learnt about unconditional love and sacrifice and what it really means to love and accept a person no matter what."
Robyn moved interstate – from regional NSW to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – for a change of scene in her late 30s and found herself living alone in a big house with plenty of spare bedrooms. Although she had a dog and cat, there was room for more!
"My mum and dad and my sisters are foster carers and we’ve always had lots of children around. I hadn’t really thought about it myself but one day out of the blue my dad rang me up and suggested it. He told me I’d be good at it and that carers are so needed," Robyn said.
Robyn lives a life of meaning and purpose, and her faith is very important to her. She thought long and hard about it, and decided it was something she could do. "I was surprised to discover that my being a single woman with no children of my own was not an obstacle," she said.
13 years later, she has cared for over 20 children and is currently the primary carer of three children aged 18 months, 10 and 16 and couldn’t be prouder of them. Her home is now a busy place with lots of children and visitors coming and going, including foster nieces and nephews.
Caring for children has really changed Robyn’s perspective on life, particularly when 14 year old Claire* was placed with her when she first began caring. Claire ended up staying with Robyn until she was 18 and taught Robyn a lot. "I learnt about unconditional love and sacrifice and what it really means to love and accept a person no matter what."
"Caring for children has enriched my life in so many ways. They are my great joy and they test me at times to the limit but this has made me a kinder, more compassionate, stronger and wiser person."
Life Without Barriers provides training to all foster carers so that they can understand what children in care have been through, and how traumatic experiences can affect their brain and behaviour. "The level of training and support offered by Life Without Barriers, learning about the effects of trauma on a child’s brain and how that affects their capacity to self-regulate, that flight or fight response. The brain pathways can be repaired, this is the amazing thing."
Robyn is still in touch with Claire 13 years later. "I just spoke to her this morning! She’s got a son of her own now and it’s so lovely to see her as a mother."
With Claire and all the other children in her care, Robyn has experienced so many highs with them. "Graduating from school and getting their first job, getting their Ls, winning a game of soccer – they are some of the highlights."
Robyn feels very strongly about ensuring children have strong relationships with their birth families, and are restored to their families where possible. "Absolutely, where it’s safe, I do my utmost to support that. Those relationships are going to be key relationships for those young people as they grow up."
Robyn said that it can be difficult, particularly being a single person. "It can be challenging, juggling things as a single carer. I’m no different to anyone else – I have days when I’m tired and where I think ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ But there are many resources you can draw on for support and self-care and Life Without Barriers is amazing in that regard."
"I often think of a saying – that it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t see it as me on my own struggling and toughing it out – I have a huge amount of support."
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.