ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT: Bathurst resident and foster carer Margaret said fostering can be challenging, but is also enormously rewarding. Photo: Shutterstock - generic image used to protect privacy.

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FOSTERING has changed the lives of Bathurst resident’s Mark and Margaret. It has also changed the lives of those they have cared for.

The couple are Barnardos permanent foster carers and to mark Foster Care Week 2018, Margaret tells the story of her fostering journey.

A family decision

“About eight years ago, my sister was an emergency foster carer with Barnardos and was caring for a group of siblings,” Margaret said. “We met them and fell in love.”

The couple had two adult children, aged 18 and 21, who were included in the fostering decision making.

“Our kids were grown and we had a good life with lots to offer. So we thought ‘why not do it all again?’. It was a family decision to take the siblings on permanently and was actually my oldest daughter’s idea! We wouldn’t have gone into fostering unless the whole family agreed.”

Challenges and rewards

“We’ve had our good days and bad days,” Margaret said. “It is the hardest thing we have ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. You definitely need a strong support network. Our Barnardos caseworkers are really supportive. You can’t be afraid to ask for help – and accept it!

“All children come with their own set of challenges, but foster children have more than most. Our children had been through so much before they came to us. They’ve overcome huge obstacles, serious medical and developmental issues. I’ve seen them grow into strong, confident young people.”

Strong and proud

“Our oldest son, Will has just turned 18. He works two jobs, is very reliable and has an amazing work ethic. He’s grown into a very compassionate and thoughtful young man,” she said.

“Last year, he was running a cross country and could have made it to nationals, but he stopped to help another young runner who had collapsed. We stood in the grandstand crying!

“One of our children has gone from being shy and withdrawn to presenting in front of the whole school as president of the student representative council.

“And our youngest is a star at sports, from basketball, hockey, athletics to soccer.”

Absolutely worth it!

“Every child has their strengths. The secret is to find those strengths and encourage them,” she said. “We give them all the opportunities we can. It’s wonderful to see them find their niche, to see their smiles when they experience new things and to hear their laughter.

“All children just want to be loved. I’m just sorry we can’t help them all.”

Barnardos Australia urgently need foster carers: single, married or same sex. You’ll receive 24-hour support, training and a generous allowance. One weekend, a month, a year or a whole childhood, your time can change a child’s life. Call 1800 663 441 or go to www.barnardos.org.au

(This article first appeared in the Western Advocate Bathurst).

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