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Inside an Australian foster family: "We feel like we have made a difference and this is why we are carers."

We like to consider ourselves an average Australian family. We do the groceries, go to work, take the children to school, sporting activities, trips to the park and somehow manage to get through the endless mounds of laundry and house chores each week. We do the same thing as many families across the country. Its not until we all pile out of our nine seat mini bus on one of our usual outings, that we are sometimes reminded that we are not quite as average as we feel. Onlookers sometimes stare in disbelief at the amount of children we have. Then the “are they all yours?” question follows. We are a family of nine, we are a foster family. The next question that follows is usually “how do you do it with so many?”

 Natalia and David Morini with their 4 children

My best answer for that question is routine, organisation, time management and endless support from our agency Life Without Barriers. David and I have learnt over the nearly five years as carers that these are the keys to making a large foster family a success. Yes, our home gets untidy — we step over toys and tiny shoes and some not so tiny shoes belonging to our ever growing teenagers — but at the end of the day we band together and do a quick clean up and order is again restored to the house. Even a hectic week makes it difficult to get everything done, but we know that as long as everyone is happy, healthy and well rested, the small things don’t really matter now and can be done later… sometimes, much later.

I’ve always considered myself to be a nurturer, caring and good in a crisis and have felt a pull towards welfare for many years. I’ve studied community services and welfare and have been offered places at uni to study social work, my husband David has a passion for helping people as well and we feel that is something we have both learnt from our parent’s examples. How we became foster carers is a simple story. I bumped into a co-worker who incidentally was a foster carer. He explained to me that he and his wife had just received four beautiful children into their home. That conversation ignited something in me and I went home and had a conversation with David about the possibility for our family. We already had 4 children of our own, the youngest being 2, but we knew with each other’s support and support from friends and family that we could do this. After doing some research we found an agency that offered lots of training and assistance to get us on our journey and soon after we were officially Life Without Barriers foster carers.

Life Without Barriers supports people with disability, children in foster care and older Australians

In our time as carers, we have had 15 children, ranging from little babies, right through to a pregnant teen, including sibling groups. We have been respite, emergency, short term and now long term carers, it has been a privilege to open our home to children and young people in an effort to keep them safe and make them feel safe. Being foster carers is something that we do as a family, our own children’s thoughts and feelings are a huge priority for us and we are constantly checking in with our kids to ensure that they are ok and have chats with them often about what is happening in our home. We spend time with them as individuals and have date night with them where we can, but more importantly the time we spend with them is quality to reiterate to them that they are loved and are important. I asked my 14-year-old son for some inspiration for this piece and what he said made me realize that there is something for us all to learn from the children in our care. He said that he feels happy that we can help kids in need, to help them feel like they belong and are safe, and that no one will hurt them here. He also went on to say that he knows that he has a good life and wants the children to have that life too. Our six year old then chimed in, “keep them safe, keep them safe mummy”.

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Foster care is an emotional journey filled with some lows, but many rewarding highs.

There can be some low times in being a carer. It’s not always roses. There have been times when children have made calls to their parents and the conversation turns negative, the child hangs up heart broken and torn. We sit and we have a cuddle until the tears stop, or we just give them space to process what just happened. They may food hoard with the fear that their next meal may be a long way away as historically that’s how it’s been for them. We quietly gather up the old fruit or whatever it is they’ve stashed and remind them gently that food is always available. The fruit bowl is always stacked full in our house and ready for the picking. Even in these times, we honor the parents of the children. They are their people, their identity, whom they feel a connection to no matter how abused or neglected they were by them. To show respect of the family is to respect the child and remind them that they too are important and loved.

With the lows come the highs, and those are the times that we are reminded why we do what we do. Seeing a child smile and laugh as they go on their first pony ride, or the joy in their eyes when they receive a school award for effort in class for the first time, seeing them gradually stop hiding under the bed every time they hear an unfamiliar voice come into the home, and knowing that now they are feeling safe. These are the times we feel like we have made a difference and this is why we are carers.

“We feel like we have made a difference.”

If you are thinking of becoming a carer now or in the future, then I will say, if you have room in your heart and room in your home then this may be your time to make a difference in the life of a child or young person. You can be single, married, defacto, same sex couple, empty nesters, be a homemaker, work full time or part time, there are options available so that you can become a carer and support is there for you every step of the way.

Information may be found at www.lwb.org.au to get your journey started.

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