“It was quite emotional for us when the little boy we had staying left. For two weeks we’d had this funny little dude in our lives and then off he goes again.”
For Jo Yates, the decision to become a foster carer was one long in the making.
“From the age of about 20, I knew that I didn’t want to have my own children,” she says.
“People always told me that I’d change my mind… but I just always knew.”
It’s not that Jo didn’t love children, but rather the fact that there are already so many without stable, loving homes. And so for years, she considered adoption, but after emigrating to Australia from the UK, it became apparent just how hard realising that dream would be.
Instead, it was a story about a Sydney woman abusing the foster care system that spurred Jo and her partner Ben into action. They made the decision to become foster carers through Key Assets.
“I read an article about a lady who was fostering six children and neglecting them and taking the money, and it made me so angry,” Jo says.
“When I read that, I was like, I can do this, and it’s not about the money, it’s about ensuring those kids who really need it are getting the care they deserve.”
"It's about ensuring those kids who really need it are getting the care they deserve." Image via iStock.
Within weeks of reading the story, the couple began the process of becoming foster carers, and now offer emergency and respite care.
Unlike permanent placements, emergency and respite stays are often organised at short notice, with the length of placements and age of children varying greatly.
"We have to be quite flexible," Jo says. For emergency calls, the couple can be given as little as two hours notice, whereas respite allows more time for planning. Given that the couple both work full-time, working as a well-oiled, well-organised team is essential.
To date, Jo and Ben have had a five-year-old boy stay for two weeks, a teenage girl for a week, and a teenage boy for a week-and-a-half – quite the mixed bag.
But despite being sporadic and sometimes awkward in the initial hours together, respite care allows Jo and Ben to not only support the kids in needs but also their full-time carers as well.
"It was quite emotional for us when the little boy we had staying left." Image via iStock.
"Usually we'll meet the kids ahead of their stay with us, just so we're all familiar with one another," Jo says.
"If the kids are young, like the five-year-old boy was, he's also given a book that has our photos in it, a map of the house and some information about us and who we are."
In return, Jo and Ben receive essential information about the kids that help in those initial hours - things like what food they like and their favourite toys.
The hardest thing, though, Jo says, is when the kids leave and the house is suddenly empty again.
"It was quite emotional for us when the little boy we had staying left. For two weeks we'd had this funny little dude in our lives and then off he goes again."
"But for us, it's really important to let them know that just because the stay with us isn't forever, we're not getting rid of them," Jo says.
"We're in a really good position and there are kids out there who aren't, so we should do something to help them." Image via iStock.
"We let them know that the door's always open and that it's not the end, there's still someone for them if they ever need it, even if they're not with us. We've said that they can text and call us, which both of the teenagers do," she says, adding that recently, the teenage girl sent the couple photos from her formal, and the teenage boy shared the joy of getting his first motorbike.
When I ask Jo about the children's stories, and what effect that has on she and Ben, her answer surprises me.
"It's very hard to hear the kids' stories; a lot of them have had some really awful things happen and not had the best start to life," she says.
"But then looking beyond that, they've been given the support that they need. I think what spurred me on after reading about the woman in Sydney was the fact that we're in a really good position and there are kids out there who aren't, so we should do something to help them."
Have you been a foster parent?
This post was written thanks to our brand partner Key Assets.
Key Assets is a not-for-profit foster care provider who supports carers with on-going training, 24/7 support and a dedicated social worker. Carers also receive an allowance to help support the valued work they do.