Lily (not her real name) was 17 months old when she came to live with foster carers, Carolyn and Ian. The couple dreamed of weekend bike rides and friends’ birthday parties for the bubbly youngster. But first, they had to help her reach key milestones like walking and talking. Carolyn and Ian also had to teach Lily how to hug.
“When she came to us she didn’t know how to connect,” said Carolyn. “You could pick her up and she would just leave her arms hanging.”
The Carolyn and Ian spent countless hours showing Lily how to wrap her arms around their necks and squeeze tight. The family called it a ‘koala’. Now Lily, who recently turned 7, asks for a koala each morning.
“I have to sit on a chair now to give her a koala because she’s just too heavy,” laughed Carolyn.
Once Lily had learned how to hug Carolyn set out to teach her how to walk and within a month she was off and running. Now Lily has come full circle and has mastered riding a bike without training wheels. Carolyn acknowledges it has been a long road from those first toddling steps to seeing Lily flying around the footpaths on her bike. But the journey has been worth it.
“Somewhere everybody can make a difference,” said Carolyn. “It’s about being willing to give and willing to learn because it sure taught us a lot. The children that come into care, don’t come into care because of who they are they come into care because of a situation they’ve been brought into and it’s not their fault.”
There is an estimated need for at least 660 new foster carers in NSW and CareSouth foster carers Carolyn and Ian are well aware of the number of children out there who need a loving home.
This couple married later in life and by this time Ian had raised two children from a previous relationship. They had always hoped there would be more children in their lives but as they say they, “left their run a bit late.” Foster care was a way to fulfill that dream.
“Both of us are community minded and we wanted to make a difference. We started off doing respite care for a couple of sibling groups, it was a way for us to dip our toes in the water and try it out for a weekend. We could see the difference it made to these children’s lives and we wanted to do that long term,” said Carolyn.
“I said to Ian if there is a child who needs us they will find us. And then the phone call came. The day we met Lily it was just an amazing, amazing moment. I can’t find a word to describe the feeling. You know when you just know you’re in the right place at the right time. Well, she just looked at us and that was it. This isn’t about blood, it’s about caring and families can be beyond blood as well.”
One of the most important lessons this amazing couple are now teaching Lily is emotional resilience so that when she falls off her bike or falls down in life she will be able to dust herself off and get back up again.
“We have an expectation that she will try, we don’t care if she doesn’t make it, we just want her to give it a go. So many children fall down when things go wrong but we teach her to get up and find a way to make it work and give her what she needs to do this, said Ian.”
People interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer can visit the Fostering NSW website: www.fosteringnsw.com.au or call 1800 236 783.