Colleen is a single woman with no children of her own. And she is a respite foster carer.
Colleen has a love for children, a background in teaching, and a supportive network of family and friends. She has been a foster carer for 10 years, looking after children on weekends and in emergencies. She says it is “one of the best things I have ever done in my life”.
Different kinds of families
When Colleen first became interested in foster caring, she approached several organisations. One of the reasons she chose to foster through The Benevolent Society was our belief that ‘family’ can take many forms.
“I like the idea of different kinds of families, traditional nuclear families, blended families, gay parent families and so on,” Colleen says.
The Benevolent Society has a long history of open mindedness towards different kinds of families, including single parent families, and Colleen was warmly welcomed as a carer.
Colleen says she would recommend foster caring to anyone, no matter their family type or structure. She does, however, add a note of caution.
“I think that anyone taking on a [foster child] needs to consider very carefully whether or not their whole family is happy with the arrangement.”
Colleen’s own family consists of her four siblings and their children and grandchildren.
“My family is big, noisy, warm and welcoming. We get together often, laugh a lot and care for each other all the time.”
Putting kids first
Colleen had wanted to be a foster carer for many years, but felt her career was too demanding for her to look after a child full-time. Now retired, Colleen provides relief foster care and plays an important role in the lives of many of her foster children.
“I know that I am just a small player in the lives of the children for whom I care, but I am determined to make their time with me happy, fun and safe. At my age, what a joy it is to be at the putt-putt, or the Disney movies or at the many other activities that kids enjoy. I learn so much from them too – they keep me young!”
It takes a village to raise a child
Colleen refers to a famous African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” to express her views on raising children. For her, that means it takes a community of people, from all different walks of life, to help a child grow and learn.
“I want to be part of the village,” she says. “I had a wonderful childhood and I want to ‘give back’ to the community in this small way.”
Colleen stresses that being a foster carer is all about putting the needs of the child first. She also offers her views on the traits that a foster carer needs.
“Respect for, and indeed, love of children; a willingness to share one’s life with them; a commitment to their safety – and a willingness to work with case managers.”
Also required is “an abundance of kindness, a sense of humour and warmth, patience, wisdom”.
Colleen encourages anyone who is interested in foster caring to get in touch with organisations like The Benevolent Society, to begin the training, and to talk to people like herself.
When asked whether foster caring has been rewarding, Colleen’s answer was a resounding yes.
“I have received so much joy from the children in my care,” she says. “It has been such a privilege to be their carer, their confidante, and their mentor.”
If you would like to register your interest in becoming a Foster Carer or get some more information about what it’s all about please fill out the form here or call us on 1800 236 762.