BECOMING a foster carer has allowed single Riverland woman Lauren to build a loving family around her while providing a safe and nurturing home for vulnerable children.
Three children – aged 14, eight and seven months – are in her long-term care and others continue to visit for short-term placements while awaiting longer-term arrangements with biological family members or other carers.
“It's a busy little household, but I feel lucky to be able to provide a home for these kids,” Lauren explains.
“They have brought love, joy and laughter into my life and our home and I just feel grateful that I can provide a safe space for them where they feel safe, at home and at peace - my foster daughter calls it her forever home and to know that she feels safe and secure is really special.”
Known by the children in her care as “Mama Lauren”, she previously worked with children in various roles as a nanny and in schools before turning to foster care to make her home life complete.
“I went to an information night ac.care held in the Riverland and just decided to go for it,” she explains.
Although initially planning to offer respite care, Lauren was asked whether she could care for a child long-term and welcomed the young girl, who is now a teenager, into her home.
“I look back at photos and reflect and think about this little girl who came to me and now she's growing into this amazing young woman and a little boy who has also joined my family that was so full of energy and still is, but more placid and calm,” Lauren said.
“It's amazing to see that as they feel safe and secure their personalities develop and come out even more, so it's beautiful.”
The nurturing relationship Lauren provides for the children in her care is also supported by her extended family, including her own parents and siblings.
“They all love the kids as part of the family,” she explained.
“They see my mum and dad as Ma and Pa and my sisters as aunties and my family see the kids just the same - they are the first grandchildren in our family, so they are spoiled with lots of love and it's brought my family closer together because they want to be in the kids' lives.”
Lauren will speak at ac.care’s August Riverland foster care community forum in Berri and hopes sharing her story will inspire other caring adults to open their hearts and homes to vulnerable young people.
“There's a massive need for foster homes in our region and across South Australia and I think if you have a heart for kids then go for it and find out about what is involved in opening your home,” she said.
Lauren said she empathised with people who were reluctant to become foster carers, but said offering a safe space was vital to allow young people to thrive.
“We've had lots of children come and go and some have gone to other placements, back to family or with other members of their biological family and that can be sad after those connections have formed, but we know that we're providing love and safety for the time that they are with us,” she said.
“We tell any child that arrives in our home they are part of our family whether they are here short term or for a long time – this is their home while they are here and the reward of being a carer far outweighs any of the hardships.”
Meanwhile, she said ac.care had supported her throughout her caring journey to help address challenges as they arose.
“The placement support workers are amazing – they are just a phone call away and nothing is too hard or too much trouble,” Lauren said.
“They link you with resources and training and provide really friendly support.”
Find out more about becoming a foster carer and hear direct from Lauren and other carers at ac.care’s Riverland foster care forums on August 19.
Forums will be held at the Vines Community Church in Berri at noon and Chaffey Community Centre in Renmark at 6pm with free meals provided.
Visit www.accare.org.au/foster-care-forums/ for bookings and more information.
Call 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273) if you would like to find out more about becoming a foster carer and start the registration process or follow this LINK to find out more.