13 October 2020

Good mental health is the key to positive development of the overall wellbeing of a child.

When Lisa and her husband Paul became foster carers to a group of siblings almost eight years ago, they knew the children had seen tough times.

Having worked in the disability and mental health field her whole career, Lisa noticed signs that the children’s life experiences had taken a toll on them. She decided the best course of action was to address matters sooner rather than later.

“At first, I began to build trust with the kids, to help them start feeling safe and secure,” said Lisa.

“That way they’d know they could let their guard down a little.”

From her professional training, Lisa knew how important it was to talk to the children in age-appropriate ways about some of the mental health challenges their biological parents were dealing with.

Lisa’s actions helped the children to look objectively at what was happening to their parents and to slowly let go of feeling responsible.

As the children grew, Lisa explained how mental illness impacts their parents’ lives. She answered any questions the children had, particularly questions about if they, too, might have issues with their own mental health in the future.

With much of her time spent focusing on the children’s overall wellbeing, she also knows how hard it can be when you’re trying to get help and you don’t know whom to go to or whom to ask.

“Even for those who know the system, knowing when to get help can be difficult.”

“Getting professional help and support is essential. Finding a good paediatrician and a counsellor or psychologist can make a world of difference.”

Lisa strongly suggests foster carers talk to their Life Without Barriers Case Manager and to connect with other carers. It is a great way to seek out professional help.

“It’s also really important to look after your own mental health as a carer. I see a counsellor regularly and it gives me a chance to talk and cry and laugh with someone – without having to lean on family or friends. My husband is really into bike riding and says there is nothing like going for a long ride to get rid of some stress.

“Being a carer is a 24/7 job and, while it can be tough, it is also so rewarding. It is an honour and a privilege to be able to care for children and young people.”

“Teaching children that life is great and seeing them grow up happy and healthy is everything.”

*Names have been changed to protect children and young people in care.

Related Stories