Becoming a foster carer is something that has crossed my mind on a couple of occasions.
There was the psychic who said I would have a third child, despite my husband and I already ruling that possibility out in a rather final way.
“Oh, you must adopt or foster someone then,” a dear long time friend said.
“You’d be good at that, you rule the household with an iron fist and your children are so perfectly behaved.”
Every government department of families in the country is crying out for people of all ages, races and backgrounds to help to raise children that have been taken into care due to abuse or neglect.
While their first aim is to place these children in kinship care, with relatives or somebody known to them that can provide a stable and caring environment, that is not always possible.
So that is where people like Rochelle and Daran Royce come in.
The Royce family
The Sunshine Coast couple and Rochelle’s son Lachlan have been a respite carer family for the past five years.
In that time, they have taken in 14 children between the ages of six and 17 on weekends, and sometimes longer, in order to give the children’s full time foster carers a break.
“At first, you need to go gently, gently until there’s trust and a bit of security. The quicker you can get them into a routine, they will feel safer and the calmer you can be and the more matter-of-fact you can be, they feel reassured. They all have different psychological, physical and emotional needs and they all have these for different reasons so you just have to take the time to read the child and let them read you,” she said.
“There are children who act out physically, those who withdraw and some who have been ‘parentified’, where they are so used to thinking for their parent and acting for their parent that they have forgotten how to be a child.”
Yes, she sounds like a qualified psychologist, but Rochelle assured me she was just like any other woman who had a desire to raise children and give them the best opportunity in life.
The key was the training she received through Life Without Barriers, an organisation that works closely with the Queensland Department of Child Safety.
Being part of the village
There are dozens of organisations just like Life Without Barriers in every state and territory in Australia and they all provide comprehensive training and 24 hour support for foster carers.
No, it is not all roses and sunshine and Rochelle openly explained one of her biggest challenges was trying not to react when the children became relaxed and began to share some of the horrific details of their past.
“It is what they know. The reality is that I grew up with loving parents and three sisters in a safe home and that is not everybody’s reality. It is hard not to look shocked at what you could hear, but instead to actively listen. You might have to report some things later on, but it is amazing to see how relaxed the child becomes when they feel safe enough to share these things with you,” she said.