Foster caring is a tough job with huge rewards

STEVEN and Lesley never expected to become foster parents.

After all, their own kids had hit their 20s and the days of changing nappies were far behind them.

But all this changed 12 months ago when the Casino couple opened their lives to a baby boy.

The young lad, who cannot be named, had sustained a brain injury in a terrible incident and was not expected to live.

Unable to live with his birth parents, the couple took him into their care.

"It was just sort of a natural thing to put the hand up and take him on," Steven said.

But it wasn't an easy task.

Left to right: Sonya Martindale-vale, manager case worker at Challenge in Lismore, with foster carers Steven and Lesley and the child they are fostering.
Left to right: Sonya Martindale-vale, manager case worker at Challenge in Lismore, with foster carers Steven and Lesley and the child they are fostering. Mireille Merlet

"For us it was hands-on 24-7 more or less," he explained.

"He had a bit of a rough time... all the things a normal baby would do were a real challenge for this little fellow.

"Our first goal was for him to sit up, and now we've got him walking.

"We wouldn't think of doing anything else now... it's just so rewarding."

On a video with testimonials played at the launch, a 15-year old boy John wrote of the benefits to his life of foster care, saying: "with someone from my background there's no way you could not improve it by at least 80%. I am lucky to be alive".

Lismore case worker Emma Fraser, who works with Steven and Lesley, conceded that being a foster carer was "probably one of the toughest jobs in the world".

Qualities such as being "open, flexible, caring, and nurturing" were all important to the role.

She advised potential carers to speak to those who had already experienced foster caring to find out what the experience was like.

Speaking at the launch, Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said she was "absolutely in awe" of carers, citing two examples of children who had "blossomed" through loving foster care into independent adulthood.

"I would encourage more families to open their hearts and their homes to foster children... it takes a mob to raise a child."

Family and Community Services district director Susan Priivald, said Challenge was an example of a non-government organisation leading the way in ensuring foster kids had the best possible out-of-home care.



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