A Sunday roast lunch at Stewart and Jo’s home has become more of an event than a simple family meal.
As BCYF foster carers for more than 20 children over the past nine years, family get-togethers – whether they be a wedding or a weekend meal – have grown significantly during that time. That is because the children who have entered Stewart and Jo’s care have become a part of their own extended family.
While the couple get a huge amount of satisfaction seeing children in their care return to and thrive in their own family units, there is always a place in their hearts – and their own family – for those young people.
This connection is part of what has made the foster care experience so special for Stewart and Jo, and their six children.
“We had two teenagers that happened to come in when our children were pretty much the same age. They stayed with us for quite a while through until the end of high school,” Jo recalls.
“If we go out anywhere they will refer to me as ‘mum’. They meet up and have sibling lunches and they did all that off their own back. And they view themselves as brothers and sisters, even though they are now young adults, living out of home and working and are all independent, but they still will contact us and go ‘oh we are coming out for Sunday roast’.
“They like maintaining that contact and they like having that large sibling group. It’s been good for our kids to see that too and now they have an extended family.”
Making a difference to the lives of so many children has proved to be a hugely rewarding experience for Stewart and Jo.
Watching the young children in their care grow as individuals, helping them integrate back into their own family units and continue to thrive are the standout highlights for the couple when considering the foster care experience.
“Just seeing the kids go back to their own families or into new families at the end when they’re finished with us, we get quite a lot of feedback – directly sometimes – from those families,” – Stewart says.
“To see these kids who got off to a bad start just to have those new, positive futures in front of them, it’s just amazing.”
The support foster carers receive from BCYF, which includes access to a 24 hour support service, training, counselling, a Case Manager to support the carer and child, and financial assistance to cover the expenses of caring for the child, has also been an important factor for Stewart and Jo throughout their foster care involvement.
“It’s something that if you are even considering it to just go ahead and jump in because you can always change your mind if you try it and it’s not for you,” Jo says.
“But there’s such a big need for it out there – all diversities, all age groups.”
“You get more back than what you give,” Stewart adds. “So it’s definitely worth considering doing it.”