MOUNT Gambier’s Cindy Driver stopped counting how many children she had welcomed into her home as a foster carer when she reached the number of 25.
But when recognised last week as part of SA Foster and Kinship Carers Week by ac.care for 15 years of foster caring, she said the connections she had formed with young people added purpose and value to her life.
“I couldn’t have children of my own, but had helped care for my nieces with my brother and when they left town I felt a little empty nested so, realising how many children needed care, this was my way of filling that empty nest and contributing,” she said.
Ms Driver has provided short-term, long-term and emergency care over the years, currently focusing on respite to support other carers.
Many children she cared for are now adults, but she welcomes ongoing supportive relationships, including with a young woman she helped raise from the age of 9 who is now a mother and continues to connect.
Carers were recognised at a function held by ac.care at the Limestone Coast Pantry on Thursday.
“All our carers make a remarkable contribution to supporting vulnerable young people by opening their hearts and homes, whether it is for overnight emergency stays or through to long-term commitments to raising a child to adulthood,” ac.care Limestone Coast foster care manager Sherri Winter said.
“Without our network of carers, these children who are unable to live with birth parents would not be able to remain in our community or have the love and support of a family-based placement.”
Ms Winter urged anyone who had considered becoming a foster carer, whether long-term or to join the agency’s emergency or respite network, to find out more online or by calling 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273).
Fostering brings children into Wendy’s life
PENOLA retiree Wendy Hollick became a foster carer 10 years ago when she was not expecting to become a grandmother, but wanted to remain involved with children after previously working as a school teacher.
She has treasured the connections she has formed with children as a respite carer, welcoming children into her home for short visits to provide their regular carers with a break from fostering responsibilities.
“I think a lot of people believe that if they were asked to foster a child it is all about long-term and they don’t understand there is the opportunity to have a child for a day or night a month or even less frequently as a respite carer,” she said.
“I thought it was something I could do to have a connection with children and as a respite carer you can manage placements around when you are available.”
Ms Hollick has valued opportunities to provide what are often seen as everyday activities for children she has welcomed into her care, finding they have sometimes been new and meaningful life experiences for the youngsters.
“It is lovely just to provide ordinary life experiences for a child, like going to the library or a sports match or cooking scones, a cake or dinner together – that’s something we often do,” she said.
“Some of the children are regularly in households with a number of children where it is easier for the adult to cook for everyone, but when you have a visit from a child or two you can really dedicate time to doing something special with them and share some life skills.”
Ms Hollick said her pets – a dog and a cat – also enjoyed the company and attention of visiting children, who doted over and interacted with the animals.
Her connections have often extended beyond the time children are in her care, with positive relationships continuing as young people have become adults and even parents themselves.
She continues to catch up with young adults who were previously in care, helping with study and remaining connected, and enjoys watching children she has cared for compete in sports at weekends.
“That can be a lot of fun and exciting and it is lovely when young people appreciate you being in their lives,” Ms Hollick said.
Ms Hollick’s 10 years of service as a foster carer was recognised at ac.care’s SA Foster and Kinship Carers Week morning tea at the Limestone Coast Pantry on Thursday.