During Foster Care Week 2022 (September 11-17), Barwon Child, Youth & Family (BCYF) is celebrating the role all family members play in caring for young people.
When Georgia Mantzaris was in primary school, her family began fostering children. At the time she had no idea the profound impact they would have on her, or the difference she could make in their lives.
Georgia is now aged 19, studying to become a teacher, and is a passionate advocate for foster care. She knows first-hand the difference having a safe and stable home can make to a child or young person.
“Fostering is a really big decision and it’s going to have a big impact on your family, but it’s so worth it just to know you are making someone’s life better and safer, even if it’s for a short amount of time. It’s just one of the greatest feelings,” she said.
Georgia recalls her early experiences meeting foster children fondly.
“I was excited about having foster children come to stay,” she said.
“All mum and dad told us was that these kids needed somewhere to live. I remember a boy coming to stay with us … he was the shiest boy I had ever known. I decided to make him my friend and by the end of his stay we were having quite a bit of fun.
“I’ve always enjoyed taking care of other kids and was always enthusiastic that they could come into our house to find solace.”
Over the past decade the family has cared for about 30 children for respite, short-term and long-term care – including two who came to stay as babies, and have since become permanent members of the family.
“They’re our siblings now and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them,” Georgia said.
The family had another child come to stay in 2021 during the COVID lockdowns, which meant five children all doing home schooling under one roof. Georgia was a huge support to the family during this time, not only managing her own online learning but also supervising her younger siblings.
Georgia also has a biological younger brother and three older half-siblings, the eldest having recently had a baby of her own. She describes her family as “chaotic” but would not have it any other way.
“There’s never not a full house,” she says. “I love all my siblings, we’re all really great support for each other, which is why foster caring works.”
She is looking forward to becoming a foster carer herself when she is older and urges other families to consider what they can do to help.
“The feeling that you get knowing that you’re helping someone else out who isn’t able to help themselves is just so fulfilling and such a wonderful feeling,” she said.
Out of Home Care Manager Jo Dumesny said BCYF urgently needs more people in the community who can respond to the increasing number of children who need care. There is an urgent need for all types of carers from overnight or emergency care, respite, through to longer term carers.
Foster carers can come from all walks of life, they can be single, couples including same-sex couples, families, with or without children. What is important is that they can provide children with a safe and nurturing home.
“One of the concerns we sometimes hear from parents is around how bringing foster children into the home might impact on existing children,” Ms Dumesny said.
“While these concerns are of course valid, Georgia’s story shows how fostering can be a wonderful and enriching experience for all members of the family including biological children.”
If foster care is not right for you, there are other ways to show your support.
“We’re creating a Foster Care Village of volunteers who provide extra supports for foster carers, helping out with things like transporting children and young people to and from school or extra-curricular activities, giving carers a time off, so they can go out, cook or catch up on jobs, homework or tutoring, taking a child to social activities, being a buddy or mentor,” Ms Dumesny said.
You can also support children and young people in foster care by making a donation online during Foster Care Week at www.bcyf.org.au/foster-a-future/
To find out more about becoming a Foster Carer or a Villager, contact BCYF on 5226 8900 or visit www.bcyf.org.au/foster-care/
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