When couple Brendan and Gel look around their beautiful Geelong region home, they don’t just see a space just for them and infant son, Hugo. They see space for any child or young person who may need a safe and loving home.
The pair, in their early 30s, have been foster carers with BCYF for almost five years. They love providing a safe home for young people, describing being able to care for these children and young people as a privilege.
“A good friend of mine growing up was a foster carer, and we just saw the love she had in her heart and the way she opened her home to many vulnerable young people,” Gel explains.
“We just really aspired to do our bit and help as many as we can. We wanted to open our home up to as many kids as we could – knowing that we had a lot of love to give and a lot of spare rooms for them to come and stay in.”
Foster care is provided for children and young people when they cannot live with their parents or extended family. This can be for a variety of reasons.
Brendan acknowledges he, like many prospective carers, was unsure before he made the commitment to foster care.
“I was very cautious,” he admits.
“I was 100 per cent after we did the information session, and two day training. After I did that I had a better picture of what was going on, the program and how the process works.”
The pair started their foster care journey as respite carers, which sees carers provide care once or twice a month to a child or young person. This then developed into longer-term placements.
Children and young people who need care vary, from babies to teenagers. Gel and Brendan welcome all.
“We’ve had toddlers, young teens, boys, girls, everything,” Gel says.
When the couple had their first biological child, a happy smiley boy named Hugo, they knew they still wanted to be carers.
“If you can expose your biological children to a world of love and welcoming new people in, that only enriches their lives as well as the young person who is coming into your care,” Gel says.
When a child or young person first enters foster care, the aim is for the parents to have support for their child or young person to return to their care as soon as it is possible to do so safely.
According to state-wide foster care initiative Fostering Connections, most children and young people return home to their parents within six months.
Gel explains how rewarding foster care is, even though it is not permanent.
“The number one thing we hear is, ‘I don’t know how you could do that, I wouldn’t be able to give them back’, or ‘I don’t know how you could do that, it would hurt my heart too much’,” she reflects.
“Those are the sort of people these kids need. We need people to love them, we need people to give 110 per cent to these little people.
“They need people to support them, encourage them and nurture them in this time of uncertainty in their lives.
“The best thing for our little person is to see their parents succeed. Then the little person is in the best place they possibly can be, and that’s with their parents, if the situation allows.”
Brendan says being able to provide a safe space for a child or young person is the most rewarding part of the whole experience.
“These children are being thrust into a new home, so they are trying to feel comfortable in what their world is looking like too,” he says.
“When you see a kid is starting to feel safe in an environment, it’s a huge win.”
For Gel and Brendan, when they look back on what they have been able to achieve, all of the children and young people they have been able to help in some way, they describe becoming foster carers as one of the best decisions they have ever made.
“Take the plunge,” Brendan says.
“There are times when it’s hard. But these kids are worth it,” Gel adds.
“You work through it together. You work through it with your own support network, you work through it with the team at BCYF. The pros definitely outweigh the cons,” Gel says.
“Our life is so much richer having a house filled with people coming through our door.
“You just need to be passionate about young people and helping them, that’s it, that’s the only pre-requisite that you need.”
BCYF is in urgent need for more foster carers in the Barwon region.
BCYF Manager Out of Home Care, Jo Dumesny said BCYF is continuing work to recruit new people into the foster care program.
“We urgently need more people from the community like Brendan and Gel, who can help us respond to the increasing number of children who need care. 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.”
BCYF provides foster carers with ongoing training, education and 24 hour support. There is an urgent need for all types of carers from overnight or emergency care, respite, through to longer term carers.
Foster Care Week runs from September 12 to 18 2021. Foster Care Week raises awareness about foster care in the wider community and celebrates foster carers and their invaluable contribution to the lives of vulnerable children and young people and the community.
To find out if foster care is for you contact BCYF on 5226 8900.
You can also support children and young people in foster care by making a donation online during BCYF’s Foster a Future Appeal.