SEVEN years after Ben and Jess decided to become foster carers with ac.care, they have legal guardianship of five siblings who have found their “forever home” with the Limestone Coast couple.
Ben and Jess initially welcomed two toddler sisters into their home.
But four weeks later the girls’ baby brother was born.
“We did the obvious thing and welcomed him into our home so the three could stay together,” Jess explains.
“Back then we never knew they would be with us forever – let alone that another two sisters would later be born and join our family.”
The two biological sisters born after their brother joined the Peters household as their family grew to a household of seven.
The couple secured legal guardianship of the five children this year after becoming foster carers in 2013.
“Here we are, a family forever,” Jess said following the legal decision for the children, who range in age from three to nine.
“It has been very rewarding to know that we have been able to keep the family together.
“They have such a close bond and growing up together means they have the opportunity to support each other through life and are sharing experiences and memories in childhood.”
The couple, aged in their 30s, have cared for 25 children across respite, emergency, short and long-term care, but are now focused on the five siblings, as well as recently welcoming a sixth child – a baby unrelated to the five siblings – into their long-term care.
Jess says being a foster carer was something she always wanted to do, even as a child.
“By the time I was in my 20s and had met Ben, we made the choice together to start our foster care journey,” she says.
“Fostering allows you to give back to your community and make a difference in a little person’s future and then, in turn, future generations.
“We do just feel like a normal family though, maybe a little quirkier than the average family, but just a family all the same.”
ac.care foster care manager Dani Atkinson praised Jess and Ben for their dedication to foster care and ongoing commitment to the five siblings now under their guardianship, as well as the baby now also in their long-term care.
“It is a wonderful outcome for those children to remain together in a safe, stable and loving home,” Ms Atkinson said.
“We see diverse outcomes for foster care placements, sometimes with carers obtaining guardianship and other situations in which children are reunited with birth families, but our aim is always to provide stability, safety and a caring environment for young people.”
The agency supports more than 200 registered foster carer families last financial year to provide safe homes and positive relationships to more than 375 young people across eastern regional South Australia who are unable to live with their birth families.
However, with the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable families expected to prompt an increase in the number of young people in need of support, the agency hopes to recruit a further 30 foster carers this year.
Ms Atkinson said the agency welcomed inquiries from anyone interested in becoming a foster carer, with opportunities to commit to long-term, short-term or respite care.
“We would love to hear from anyone interested in finding out more about foster care and whether the time is right for them to open their heart and home to a young person in need,” Ms Atkinson said.
More information about foster care is available at accare.org.au, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273) during business hours.