Every foster carer’s motivation is different. This is Bindee and Karen’s story. The duo joined Centacare Foster Care program more than a year ago and have made a significant difference in the lives of two Aboriginal boys.
Bindee and Karen were volunteering at a soup kitchen feeding orphans in South Africa when they started to twig that they wanted to do more.
As they watched little faces devour bowls of chicken broth and bones, they were struck by the number of children in need of help.
“If we’d been able to take them all back with us, we would have,’’ says Karen.
“So we just decided then and there: we have to do more at home.’’
Weeks later, as they settled into a new suburb, north of Adelaide, the duo felt compelled to act after researching the number of Australian children in care.
“The statistics were appalling,’’ says Bindee, who reached out to Centacare Foster Care.
The program recruits, assesses, trains and supports foster carers to provide nurturing, safe and secure homes for children while they are unable to live with their birth family.
Four weeks into their assessment to become foster carers, Bindee, of Kuku Yalanji and Nauiyu heritage, and Karen were matched with two Aboriginal siblings, aged under seven.
“Originally, our thoughts were to foster one child, but we didn’t hesitate; we said yes straight away,’’ says Bindee, who is studying veterinarian science.
“Then it was just a waiting game – how soon could we have them?’’
It would take another five months before the four became family, as Bindee and Karen worked through the assessment process.
“The first day we met them, we went to their carer’s house,’’ says Karen, a long-time children’s swimming instructor.
“They opened this big gate and came running up to us and then stopped and just kind of looked at us and we looked at them. And then it was all high fives and hugs.’’
The couple says the biggest challenges initially were managing the boys’ trauma-based behaviours, prior to their relationship building and repair work, as well as learning how to liaise with Department for Child Protection.
“Both the boys had some epic melt-downs,’’ says Karen. “We’re talking four, five hours of screaming. I’ve worked with kids for 20 years but never traumatized kids. It was really, really hard.’’
Adds Bindee: “Our Support Worker, Chanel, was on call for us 24/7. She was our rock and helped us get through. We’d call her nearly every day and speak on the after-hours phone as well.’’
Eight months on and it’s a very different story. The boys are thriving in their forever home and at school. They’ve learnt to have empathy, to share, and are growing in self-confidence and cultural pride.
“To see how far they’ve come in such a short time is incredible,’’ says Karen. “If I could grow my mind as much as they have in that time, I’d be a genius in 12 months.’’
She points to one moment: “A few weeks ago, one cracked it. I had put some cuttings in the ground that I was trying to grow and he ran out the front, ripped them out and stomped on them. I went outside and I cried and I said, I’m really, really sad that you did this.
“Then four days ago, he was out the front riding his bike, and he came inside and said, `Mum-Karen, when I get my pocket money this week, I want to do something really nice. I want to go to the shops and buy some seeds so you can grow some new plants.’
“It’s the moments like those that I didn’t expect; they’re really special.’’
Bindee adds: “When you have your own children, you see your baby talk and say Mum and Dad for the first time; or you see them crawl and walk for the first time. We’re seeing moments in the boys all the time because they’ve never experienced them before.
“It’s highly rewarding – not just for us but for them too.
“They ask us every single day, are you proud of us? And hell, yeah, we are.’’
For more information about Centacare Foster Care, please phone 8159 1400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org