FOUR sons might make for a full house for most people, but Mount Gambier couple Nicole and Ian decided more than six years ago they had love to share with more children in the Limestone Coast.
As foster carers with ac.care, they have welcomed 16 children into their home for various periods of time.
Now two young girls, aged four and 18 months, call their house a home and are in the couple’s long-term care.
“It’s just nice to come home from work and feel you're making a difference, but also seeing how kids grow, develop and being a part of their life,” Ian said.
“Being a foster carer does cost you - it costs you your time and energy, your love and compassion, but you just can't place a value on the end result - it's so fulfilling,” Nicole added, when reflecting on the opportunity for the girls to be raised in a safe and stable home.
The two girls have been in the couple’s care from soon after birth.
“With four boys, it's been really cool to have two girls in our house now,” Ian said.
“Just coming home and having these little kids race up to you and want to see how your day was and those sort of things are nice that you sort of forget about when your kids get a bit older.”
CONTRIBUTING CARE: Mount Gambier parents Nicole and Ian have cared for 16 children for various periods of time over six years as foster carers in their Mount Gambier home. They now have two young girls in their care long-term. Nicole will talk about her experiences as a foster carer and answer questions in ac.care’s upcoming webinars this month aimed at encouraging more people to open their hearts and homes to young people in need of safe and stable homes. Click here for details.
Despite the family growing to accommodate six children, Nicole said foster care had brought them all closer together.
“Because of their experiences with children coming into our home, we've been able to have really open discussions with our boys about life and empathy,” Nicole said
“The boys have been a big help to us and they just treat the girls like they are part of the family - they have so many laughs with them and they are absolutely adored.”
Before taking the two girls into their long-term care, the couple welcomed foster children for a day or week through to a month or longer after becoming aware of the need for more foster carers in the region.
“With each child, you just value that time you have with them and know you could be changing their lives, whether you're just providing safety for a while or giving them some respite from issues in their own lives,” Ian said.
But he said the couple was not alone facing challenges that came with foster care, thanks to the involvement of a broad care team.
“There's great support with ac.care and their staff share the journey with you, plus the Department for Child Protection has some amazing people - it's really a team thing,” he said.
However, Ian said considering whether to become a foster carer was still a big decision and one that should be discussed with all the family.
Despite their huge contribution to the lives of many children, Nicole dismissed suggestions they were “special people”.
“We are just ordinary everyday Aussies,” she said.
“We've had to look past ourselves, question ‘what's the big picture?’ and try and put ourselves in place of the children to consider what they are thinking. Are they thinking ‘is there someone out there who will love me?’
“As adults, we should be thinking about the welfare of children in our community.”
With a growing number of young people in South Australia, including in the Limestone Coast, taken into state care and in need of foster placements, they urged other people to consider opening their hearts and homes to young people.
“If you do have a spare room and a place in your heart where you can give a little bit more love, maybe it is for you - you can make a massive difference in a child's life,” Ian said.
“It's something that's so needed in the community.”
Nicole will feature in webinars being presented by ac.care this month to encourage anyone considering foster care to learn more about what is involved in joining the organisation’s network of carers.
The foster care team can also be contacted on 1300 ACCARE (1300 22 22 73).