As we travel through towards the middle of 2021, many of us are excited by the prospect of new opportunities and the fresh start that this year offers. However, some will not have the same opportunities without some extra help. There are many vulnerable children and young people in Sydney, who need support, as well as safe and secure homes.
If you’ve ever thought about becoming a foster carer, even on a short-term or part-time basis, this story about Dave and Nathan may inspire you.
Dave, who lives in the north-western suburbs of Sydney, is a self-employed IT Trainer and a foster carer with the family support, foster care and adoption agency, Family Spirit. Dave said he had been thinking of becoming a foster carer for some time and about six years ago he began the process.
“It is a major decision,” said Dave, “so I started by doing some due diligence.” Dave already knew there was a great need for foster carers and that he wanted to help. But he was looking for a way that he could make a difference that fitted into his life.
“It was important that this worked for both me and the child.”
The need for foster carers for children aged 11 to 15 is very high, closely followed by those who are six to 11 years, and every month the demand for foster carers in NSW increases. So, Dave’s decision to care for a child 11 years or older not only filled a critical need, but he also felt a child of that age would have some independence and it would be easier for him to work with the young person, if he needed to make lifestyle changes.
Nathan came into Dave’s life when he was 11 years old and has now been with him for around five years. Over this time, Dave and Nathan have formed a very strong bond. Dave is a strong advocate for Nathan and early in the placement he helped Nathan and his school deal appropriately with some behavioural issues. Nathan very quickly understood that Dave had his back.
Contact with Nathan’s mother, siblings and grandparents, is important to both Dave and Nathan. Nathan looks forward to seeing his birth family and Dave understands the benefits of having an extended support network. Nathan is involved in local community activities such as Scouts, and as a qualified scuba diving teacher, Dave has taught Nathan to dive and they now enjoy this together.
Nathan’s placement is long-term, meaning he will be with Dave until he is 18 or older. But Dave also offers short-term and part-time care to other children.
Since 2016, Dave and Nathan have welcomed six boys into their home. Some have stayed for one or two weeks, others for a month or more, and some have stayed with them on more than one occasion.
Short-term care is needed for children who are in-between placements. Part-time care provides a break for full-time carers, and also extends the all important support network of trusted people for the child or young person.
The decision to take in a child for respite is always a joint one between Dave and Nathan. “It can sometimes be a bit disruptive, but overall, it is a positive experience for both of us,” Dave said. “And even though part-time care differs from long-term care, it may be a good way for someone who is considering becoming a carer to gain an understanding of what it is like to be a carer.”
Dave said that many people tell him that Nathan is lucky, and while it is obvious that Nathan is in a safe, caring home, Dave strongly believes that he is lucky to have Nathan in his life. He is motivated to see Nathan happy and encourages anyone who is considering foster care to “Go for it!”
“I’m the lucky one, not Nathan.”
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