I'd never really heard of foster parenting until I saw an advertisement for carers in my local newspaper. My husband Pete and I already had two children, but I really wanted another, so the idea of becoming a foster parent quickly became much more than just a passing thought.
Thankfully, Pete was as keen as I was. We knew our kids were incredibly lucky to be living such a great life, and we wanted to be able to share this with someone who hadn't had the same opportunities.
So we contacted The Benevolent Society and started down the road to becoming foster parents.
As you might imagine, qualifying to become a foster parent is intensive. There were assessment interviews, background checks, information sessions and specialised foster carer training.
On a number of occasions, caseworkers visited our home to assess the kind of environment we could provide a child. All up, the process lasted about two and a half months, and every moment was such useful preparation.
A new family dynamic
Our foster boy arrived when he was four, and he is now 13.
It was a big challenge to begin with because the child was walking through our front door into a whole new environment. But we soon overcame those challenges together, with the good parts definitely outweighing the bad.
Like most families, your kids might not get on all the time and there may be some challenges, but not matter what goes on, our foster child is part of our family. He always will be no matter what goes on.
Part of our role as foster parents includes meeting up with the child's birth parents. Pete and I were a bit anxious about meeting the birth mother for the first time, because we didn't know how she would react to us. But with us for every step was our caseworker who also goes along to the visits.
What became clear to us very quickly was that the birth mother adored her child. This was and continues to be our shared bond, which is very strong. Over the years we have built a relationship with both biological parents so it now feels like we're working together as a team.
My one bit of advice for anyone thinking of becoming a foster carer is just to make that first step. You have so much support along the way.
There are also short term foster care options if you're apprehensive about taking on a full term with someone. Emergency fostering is also a great way to trial the experience, as well as give something back to the community.
It's one hundred percent rewarding being a foster carer. Sure, there's some challenges along the way, but for Peter and I there's been nothing better than looking back to when our foster child first walked through the front door, to where he is now.
He's become another member of our family, another one of our children.