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Foster family shares joy of Christmas

THREE young siblings welcomed into a country South Australian family last year are looking forward to everything about celebrating Christmas in the stability, safety and care of their foster home this December.

Kylie and Will decided they had space in their hearts and home to support vulnerable children in their region despite already being parents of four children.

“Last Christmas, we welcomed three very sad children into our home and they were not excited about celebrating Christmas at all because they had just had such a big upheaval in their life,” Kylie said.

“But nearly 12 months on, we've got three kids that are settled, have certainly become a part of the family and are looking forward to Christmas.”

Now raising a household of seven children as Christmas approaches, the couple have split the cohort into two teams for shopping outings with a parent leading each group so each child can purchase a gift for another family member.

“The kids put a lot of thought and effort into picking one present for the person they are buying for and we have a special Kris Kringle dinner on Christmas Eve where the person giving the gift always seems to receive more joy than the person receiving, which is what Christmas is all about,” Kylie said.

However, it is not just at Christmas when Will and Kylie reflect on the different life the three foster children are living to the alternatives they may have faced if the family did not choose to care.

COMMITTED TO CARING: Parents Will and Kylie have welcomed three foster siblings into their home and look forward to sharing Christmas together as a family.

“These children we now care for would never have experienced the life they are experiencing now – they are going to go on holidays they never would have experienced and have a loving foster mum and father who make sure they are safe, loved and cared for,” Will said.

“We both work in difficult jobs where we have unfortunately become aware of abuse and neglect of children in our community, but we are also quite privileged and content in our life, so thought we could probably offer a lot and it is good for our own children to see you can give back to others and share what we are fortunate to have.”

Kylie said she had no regrets about adding to the number of children in her care and urged others to consider opening their doors to vulnerable youngsters as foster carers.

“We thought ‘we've got a home, we've got four beautiful children of our own and the capacity and space to love some more, so why not?’”

FAMILY SUPPORT: Will and Kylie’s four biological children contribute to making three foster siblings welcome in their home and part of the family.

Many people would consider raising seven children a daunting prospect, but Will said the couple’s own children contributed after being part of the family decision to offer foster placements.

“The children are all really close, which makes it so much easier for everyone to get along and care for each other,” he said.

“It's not uncommon to see two kids playing in one room, two kids in the other room and then two kids out on the trampoline - our second oldest boy calls his foster brother his ‘brother from another mother’.”

Will and Kylie did not initially plan to welcome a group of siblings into their home when they were approved as carers through regional agency ac.care, but were asked if they would consider taking in the children to keep them together and decided to see if the arrangement would work.

“We've had the three kids for 12 months now and knowing how close they are, the thought of having them in a placement where they are not together just would not be an option for us,” Will said.

Kylie explained the family had broad support to sustain the arrangement from ac.care and the Department for Child Protection, together with services such as an occasional babysitter, along with assistance from friends, colleagues and family members, to help make the task of raising seven children manageable.

“It is a team approach because it takes a village to raise a child and if you don't have a village, you create one and we certainly have with the support in place,” Kylie said.

Will and Kylie urge other caring adults to consider becoming foster carers after they have enjoyed the experience and seen the dramatic improvement in the wellbeing of children in their care.

“Children are born into circumstances outside of their control and if you've got the capacity and the love in your heart to be able to do that, why not?” Will said.

“If your child orientated, having a child that's not biologically yours write you a letter saying that you've changed their life and they love you like their own mother or father, well, it's heartbreaking for anyone and as meaningful as watching your own child take their first steps - I don't think you'll find anything more fulfilling.”

Meanwhile, Will and Kylie are also potentially raising another generation of carers.

“It's been a very positive experience for our four children - they know they are doing something amazing and we've already heard them say when they grow up, they want to provide foster care,” Kylie said.

“Even our foster children are saying ‘I want to be a foster carer like you’ and these kids come from a background of trauma that our children will never experience and for them to say ‘I want to be a foster carer like you’ is huge,” Will added.

Sadly, there are not enough foster carers to meet the needs of vulnerable children in our community and ac.care is continuing to recruit more adults committed to the safety and care of young people to help provide safe homes and positive relationships. Find out more at www.accare.org.au/services/foster-care/ or call 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273).