Kate is a retired Catholic primary school teacher and a foster carer. She became aware of the great need for carers when she attended a Family Spirit information session in the second half of last year, and by January 2020 she was providing respite care for teenage sisters.
After attending the information session, Kate decided she wanted to offer respite and emergency care because that’s where she believed she could make a difference. She was very moved to provide a safe and caring place for children and young people while they were waiting for their forever homes.
Also referred to as short-term care, respite or emergency care is for children who need somewhere to stay for a few days, a few months or up to two years.
In late January, Kate agreed to care for six year old Ellie, whose permanent placement had ended. Initially the plan was for Ellie to stay with Kate for six months, but that has now been extended to 12 months.
“I will never forget the day she (Ellie) arrived at my place,” says Kate. “Here was this little girl, standing in the middle of my lounge room, with a woman she doesn’t know. But I saw an incredible inner strength in her, after all, this was her fourth home in six years!”
In the seven months this pair has been together, Ellie’s confidence and behaviour has markedly improved. “It’s so wonderful to see the development and growth in a child that’s been through trauma.” Kate says. “It’s great to see trust starting to develop.”
Kate draws on many of the skills she developed over her 38 years of teaching. She says that as a carer “you need to be flexible enough to change with the child. If you know the child is having trouble managing their emotions you have to be able to work around that, change your approach if you have to. It’s never going to be the child’s fault …the carer has to take that responsibility.”
According to Kate, the more care, the more understanding and the more love you can give a child, the more you get back. “It’s so wonderful to see a child, who’s been in a daunting or traumatic situation, start to show love.”
There is no doubt that Ellie and Kate have a very tight bond, and even though Kate is providing short-term care for Ellie, they are planning on having a long-term relationship. Ellie has chosen to call Kate Nanna and when Ellie finds her forever home, Kate is looking forward to continuing to support her as her foster Nanna.
Kate believes that as a carer, “you need to be extremely flexible. You need to get rid of your ideas of how a child should be behaving at a certain age.”
She adds, “the community needs to understand that these children are the same as any other child, they’ve just had a lot of life experience compared to children of a similar age.”
Kate admits that it is hard work, but that it is absolutely worth it. “Ellie is worth the effort and so are all of the children in need of care.”
“So take the chance!” recommends Kate, adding that “you should at least go to an information session because that’s where you hear about the children, their needs and about the type of carer you can be.”