THE network of ac.care foster carers in the Riverland continues to grow with a diverse range of people opening their hearts and homes to young people in need of safe homes and positive relationships.
Home-based care provides opportunities for vulnerable young people to learn and develop and can be provided by couples and single people, from retirees to full-time workers, such as Berri woman Taryn.
She recently chose to become a foster carer with ac.care after learning about the number of children in the region without a safe place to call home.
“A lot of these young people are just surviving and not thriving, which is really sad knowing that these kids haven't had the opportunity to know what a supportive, loving family environment is like,” Taryn said.
Despite working full-time, Taryn was prepared to welcome a young person into her life and arranged to become a foster carer through ac.care.
“I didn't want to wait until I retired - I wanted to be able to do this now,” Taryn explained.
Taryn underwent an extensive assessment process and completed training for the important role, supported throughout the process by ac.care.
Access to childcare has also allowed her to juggle work and caring for a young person – a one-year-old girl who enjoys her time among other children while Taryn is working.
“She has settled in really well at childcare, which has made it easier to go to work,” Taryn said.
“Combining full-time work and foster care is something that probably isn't thought of, but it can be done and ac.care and the Department for Child Protection have been really supportive.”
ac.care’s network of foster carers includes more than 200 households across eastern regional South Australia.
Opening her home to a child who was unable to live with her biological parents at the time has raised Taryn’s appreciation of the impact foster carers have on young people.
“It is definitely important, even if it is as simple as a child knowing they've got somewhere to sleep and someone to pick them up from school or knowing that they have someone that actually cares about what has happened in their day,” she said.
“We take those things for granted, but it's the small things that matter to these kids and that's what foster carers can provide - food in their tummy, shelter, hugs when they need comfort – they may seem small, but they are big things for these kids.”
ac.care provides diverse support for new and existing foster carers, from training and networking opportunities, to having placement support workers always available in regional areas, which Taryn said made being a sole carer for a child less daunting.
“They have been great and are like family,” Taryn said.
“They love the kids that are in our care and are always just a phone call or email away and they will do anything to help support whatever you need and they are just a lovely bunch of people.”
With more children in state care than foster carers available, especially in regional areas, she urged other adults to consider becoming foster carers.
“I'd say it would be the best ride of your life - it's an amazing experience,” Taryn said.
“It is not without its challenges and frustrations, but it's such a privilege to be looking after these kids and it's such a special journey and unique - I really wouldn't trade it for anything.”
For more information about becoming a foster carer, visit accare.org.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273) during business hours.