Our Carer Stories
From the heart
Meet Alan and Shirley
Alan and Shirley have been foster carers with William Campbell Foundation for six years, and during that time they have supported several children and young people and learned that sometimes raising a child involves throwing out your parenting books.
“The time had come… you have these desires, these goals, and you keep talking yourself out of them or coming up with reasons not to do it, but there comes a time where you don’t have any other reason not to, and you know in yourself that if I don’t do it you’ll regret.”
That decision started Alan and Shirley on a long journey supporting a number of children and young people who for reasons out of their own control, could not continue living with their birth parents. And this wealth of experience is something that the couple reflected on frequently, especially when encouraging others to consider their own ability to provide care.
“[Our] excuse had run out, and having children was one [of them]… If there was a regret, we should have considered [foster care] when our children were here. Our children would have coped very well with it, and these kids, as we’ve seen them in the house with our children, it would have been even greater for them.”
When it came time to decide what type of care they wanted to offer, Alan and Shirley decided to try respite, short term, and emergency care; a pathway that they recommend. They found that it helped them gradually develop their skills, and find their place.
Respite care involves Alan and Shirley having a child or young person in their care for short stays, such as weekends, school holidays, or overnight; “One of the greatest supports we can offer, is to other carers, and respite is very important to long term carers, helps to empower them.”
Short term, on the other hand, is designed to give the birth family enough time to manage through difficult events and situations. And then if and where appropriate, the child or young person may be returned to their birth family or they may be placed in long term care.
“It’s not all drudgery, it’s not all trauma; you do get a lot of laughs.”
This message was a significant point that Alan and Shirley wanted to highlight throughout our conversation. “The children aren’t rebellious in themselves, they’re confused.” There are a number of things that we assume most children do, that children and care do not, such as going to the zoo, seeing movies at the cinema, even catching a ferry can be an awesome experience for children and young people in care, and the couple highlighted that there is joy in sharing these experiences with them and empowering them.
Alan also shared with us that one of the activities he enjoys to do with the children is to make up stories with them acting as the main character! Amazing stories of princes, princesses, and dragons where they were the hero. When the time came for the child or young person to leave Alan and Shirley's care they would print out these stories so that the children had a copy to keep for themselves.
“What we found was that these kids had very low self-esteem and had been poorly treated, and felt very worthless. We made them the heroes of their stories, and it built [them] up.”
Multiple times through the interview Shirely indicated that this, building them up, and providing hope and stability, was a major aspect in their role as foster carers.
"We open up the possibilities that even though your life’s not great, there’s a future there for you, if you learn how to read, do well at school, it’s a stepping stone to the next step… there is a future for them, there are people out there that care for them and want to see them succeed and grow to their full potential, and give them the opportunities they deserve, an education, love, and a safe environment.”
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A child in care himself, Bill's story has inspired many people in our community