CARING for vulnerable children in their Riverland home has added extra meaning to retirement for Peter and Deb Kennedy after they both enjoyed careers with SA Police.
Together, they have provided support for more than 25 children in need of a safe home and positive relationship as foster carers with ac.care after raising their own three children together.
“I’ve been lucky to have a good life, so I give back what I can,” Peter said, adding that it was rewarding to give hope to children who had often had a challenging start in life.
“We're in a good position and if we don’t open our door to these children, who will?”
Deb’s interest in foster care was sparked by an information session promoted by ac.care when she was looking for new pursuits after retiring from regular work.
“I found myself in the Riverland with no family locally, no job and not very much to do,” Deb said, explaining she was glad she responded to the call for foster carers.
“If I can make children feel safe and loved and show them a different side of life to perhaps what they see every day and maybe provide a spark of hope that they can take with them and think things can be better, then that’s a good thing,” Deb said.
After the extensive assessment process with ac.care, including home visits and training, the couple chose to become emergency and respite carers, taking children in for overnight visits through to a few weeks, instead of committing to long-term care arrangements.
However, despite only short-term visits from children, they said it was clear the difference their contributions made.
“One of the rewarding moments was having siblings stay with us and when workers came to collect them and take them to where they were going, the 14 month old came to me and put his arms up and wanted me to pick him up,” Peter said.
“It was clear that even in that short period of a few days a relationship developed and it was all working – it was just nice seeing a smile on his face.”
From learning eight-ball with Peter to playing with the family dog, there are many activities children enjoy in the Kennedy household.
“It's amazing the barriers you can break down and how you can get to know some of the kids and they can get to know you,” Peter said.
Deb encouraged other retirees to consider fostering.
“More people should give it a go because it's just so much fun - you have your days where you think ‘that was hard’, but you can just show these children that there is something different out there and hopefully they can cling onto that and have a more positive outlook on life,” she said.
“And you can still have your own life and do the things that you want to do - it doesn't impose on you that much and there are a lot of kids out there that need a bit of help.”
Peter said the support from ac.care was comprehensive and placements started with a phone call to check on their availability when a child needed care, followed with advice on the specific situation and follow-up afterwards.
He said the team-based approach to caring made him confident in urging other people to become foster carers.
“I think there would be a number of people out there who would be good, decent people who would have the capacity and ability to do it,” he said.
“If in doubt, have a really good look at it because you never know, it might be something that you are going to get a lot out of, enjoy and get reward from and feel good about.”
The Kennedys featured at the Renmark session of ac.care’s Riverland foster care forums in August.
Want to learn more about foster care? Follow this LINK or call ac.care on 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273) for more information.