To all you Clark Kent’s out there,
You’re the superheroes in everyday clothes, giving kids love and stability when they need it most. You’re the ones who open your homes, and more importantly, your hearts, to children who’ve faced some really tough times. Your commitment is nothing short of amazing and sometimes it feels like nobody gets just how incredible you are. Well, we do!
So put self-care on your to-do list, preferably at the top. Caring for the kiddos is a rollercoaster of emotions and energy. But if you don’t take care of yourself it’s easy to run on empty, and then it’s tough to be the really amazing caregivers that you are.
Here are some self-care tips, just for you:
- Lean on others: reach out to the foster care team at Baptcare, chat with fellow carers. You don’t have to do this alone
- Take a breather: use our respite carers for a break. A little “me-time” goes a long way
- Set some rules: be clear about your boundaries. Knowing your limits helps you and the kids
- Call in your support network: don’t be shy about asking friends and family for help, and let them know you appreciate them
- Keep learning: stay curious, stay informed about foster care and child development. Knowledge empowers you to better understand and meet the unique needs of the kids in your care. Learning is like a superpower
- Be kind to you: remember, you’re doing an incredible job. Be gentle with yourself – you’re only human.
In a nutshell, Foster Care Week is not just a time to celebrate you but to remind you to celebrate yourself too. Your self-care is like putting on your cape – it helps you to be the superhero you are for the kids. You’re not just heroes, you’re family builders, dream nurturers and love givers. This very special week is for you, don’t forget to give yourself some love too.
With big hugs and cheers, from Jacqui and the Baptcare Foster Care Team.
In doing some research on what we have in store for us over this winter’s cold and flu season, the intensity of this year’s season was hard to pin down however the experts threw some other variables into the mix. Post-lockdown living means we not only have the usual colds, influenza variations, and ear infections to consider but also the dreaded covid. Whilst the strains that have been making the rounds recently seem to be less severe, it’s still crucial to wash hands thoroughly and take action if you feel you have symptoms – and to make sure the kids are doing the same.
The other variable to consider is El Nino, which has come our way for winter and unfortunately creates ideal conditions for viruses to thrive. It’s not all doom and gloom! El Nino also brings warmer, drier weather making it possible to enjoy being outside more – a fact that has any parent or carer doing an enthusiastic fist pump.
So, what are some fun things to do with kids to make sure they stay active and happy in the colder months? It can be tempting to stay indoors and cosy up but getting out for at least an hour a day with the little ones makes for happier children and in turn happy carers.
Head off to the local park and let the kids loose in nature. Have them pick up some different types of leaves to go home with and create some kind of craft project with, like drawing a tree and sticking them on. This is a great sensory activity too – it engages all their senses and helps them to interact with nature and encourages experimentation and creativity.
Rug up and go and find a public barbecue. Let the kids help you cook some sausages, take along a flask of hot chocolate and enjoy some warm, yummy snacks in the cold. Winter picnics create beautiful memories – they introduce children to new experiences and using it as a reason to try eating something new can be a useful trick to get the pickiest eaters to attempt something out of their usual comfort zone.
Visit a local farmers' market
One of the best ways to stay healthy during winter and keep away from those nasty bugs is to eat nutritious foods. It’s also a great way of educating children on good shopping and eating habits. Pick up some fresh organic veggies at the local market and let the kids help you make a delicious soup.
Watching a local sports game
You don’t have to be involved in a club to go along and watch a local footy or netball match. Letting kids observe other children enjoying physical activities helps to promote it. It also lets them see teamwork and cooperation and that participation can be fun. It’s a great prompt to have conversations about joining a sports team.
Whether it’s a picnic or a walk, or something completely different, keeping the kids engaged and active is the best way to get the household through the cold months relatively unscathed. Happy hot chocolate drinking!
Jacqui, Recruitment and Retention Worker
Julie always knew she wanted to have an impact in the community services sector so eventually made that leap and changed careers. She has a strong sense of social justice and started making sure everyone had a home to go to at Christmas time as a young girl when she appealed to her mother’s Christian faith and negotiated a good outcome for all – a habit she never let go of.
Tell us about yourself?
I’ve been working in the community services sector for about 23 years with a focus on family services, child protection, out of home care and disability in a variety of practitioner and leadership roles. I have three children aged 22 – 35, both biological and non biological, and have been married for 7 years. I have been a foster carer to a young boy with medical needs and disabilities. I have a wicked sense of humor, love a laugh and love to read and do craft activities!
To borrow a question from one of our assessments: if you had to describe fostering to someone what would you say?
Fostering is an opportunity to provide a child or young person with experiences that promote their self esteem, development and building of trust to help them along their journey of life. It's not about the quantity of time that you are in their lives, but the quality of the experience you are able to provide. It involves every feeling and emotion you can imagine… it is joyful, fun, challenging, frustrating and makes you feel like you are giving someone a great start in life. There is enormous reward in that. It was an amazing experience and I am grateful for my time with my foster son.
Your best words of advice to a new foster carer?
While foster care is temporary, you are an important piece of that child’s life forever as they move through their journey. Make sure the child has photos, drawings and other mementos of this time so when they look back at their life they can remember those positive experiences and wonderful memories with you and your family.
How long did you foster for and why did you choose to do it?
I fostered for approximately 18 months and it brings me joy knowing that I was able to assist my foster son in building attachment, increasing his physical and cognitive development and helping him to continue his journey.
I am passionate about the care and safety of children and feel all children deserve trusting, safe relationships with the adults in their lives. I feel strongly that emotional regulation is paramount to living a fulfilled life, and I love assisting parents and carers with both this and other parenting and communication tips.
Tell us about a stand out moment from your foster caring experience?
When I first met my foster son at two and a half years old he was living in hospital and had been there since he was approximately six months old. He was one of a set of twins and they were born with a medical condition that was corrected with surgery. His twin’s operation was a success but he had an infection and due to not getting medical attention in time, sustained a brain injury and needed ongoing medical interventions. He was unable to be fostered prior to me as the agency was unable to find someone to address his very complex needs. The process to have him come home with me was long as I needed to be trained in sterile medical procedures, which involved living in hospital with him for 6 weeks. While we relinquished care after about two years, he was able to find new carers to take on the role, after seeing that my family had been able to do it so well already. We demystified and destigmatised his medical and disability needs, and showed it was possible to care for him in a family home. I feel proud that I was a part of his journey in life and know that he has been thriving. He will be 20 years old this year.
Looking back, I can see I was trying to follow a tried-and-true formula of how I thought Christmas should be. As a result, I was sorely disappointed. Through a few trials and tribulations I can see we have made some wonderful memories that have turned into “our” sort of traditions. For example, one year when I was trying to do a picture-perfect evening of tree decorating, my toddler daughter stood on a bauble – which led to a prompt hospital trip to get stitches in her foot. While waiting those long hours in the ED, we made paper decorations for the tree and read The Night Before Christmas.
Although the kids are much older now, we still bring out the well-worn story book every year and take a trip down memory lane of the many disasters and antics the kids have got up to over the years. They still love to hear them and still insist on certain things being done certain ways.
This made me ponder – why are traditions so important to people? Associate Professor of social and political sciences at The University of Melbourne, Lauren Rosewarne says “much of life has a sense of repetition and sameness to it. Special holidays and traditions create a break from the ordinary and are a deliberate effort to create special events that are something to look forward to as well as reflect on in later years”. I feel it goes further than that for me.
Having no one there for those special moments and times of the year, someone that knows me well, that knew me all of my life was – and is – hard. This is where dreaming up my own traditions has helped to create new memories. I put myself in the shoes of the children in care and can strongly empathise with the importance of memory creation and life books for these young people. No one knows all of their story – not even them. No one has been there continuously throughout their lives and as a result there are gaps throughout those years that can’t be filled in.
Establishing traditions and core memories are vital to a child’s happiness. Christmases and family holidays can be a very hard time for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, and many more.
So how can you as a carer help?
One thing I can definitely attest to is that you don’t have to follow any set pattern. You aren’t looking for the picture-perfect, Hollywood Christmas. You’re looking for memories that can be talked about, laughed over and cherished. Photographs that can be saved, mementoes that can be kept. These are what make traditions, these are what make a life whole. I was looking through my Facebook memories last week and I came across a quote I’d used. It doesn’t say who it was from but it summarises my thoughts perfectly:
“Memories need to be shared. The past beats inside me like a second heart. Humans, not places, make memories and character.”