‘Anyone can do it’ foster carers say ahead of Joondalup info session

“ANYONE can do it,” foster carer Mary Brown said of the role she and husband Roger took up about four years ago.

“There must be so many people that can do it.”

The Hillarys residents spoke to the Times about their experiences as carers for three boys, aged seven, almost eight and nine, ahead of an upcoming foster carers information session in Joondalup.

Semi-retired, the couple decided to become foster carers after returning from a trip overseas.

“Our kids are grown up and have left home,” Mr Brown said.

“We were talking along the lines of ‘what are we going to do now?’ – I came home from work and she said ‘what about fostering?’

“I had a great childhood; it really appealed to me to put something back and give a kid an opportunity to have a choice between chaos and what I believe is normal life.

“We’ve got an opportunity to really change that little world.

“I just wanted them to have good memories; to have that opportunity to stand on their own feet.”

They took the first step by attending an information session similar to the one planned at the Joondalup district office on May 9.

Mr Brown said it took about nine months to go through the assessment and training.

“At the end of that year we got two little boys walking down the path,” he said.

Those boys are brothers and a third boy has since joined their household, having first stayed with the Browns for a holiday.

The couple initially wanted to provide short-term care, thinking they would be too old to care for children until they turned 18.

“We got into it in our mid-50s; we will be in our 70s,” Mr Brown said.

Mrs Brown said they thought younger people would be better suited to the role, but had since realised age did not limit anyone’s ability to provide care.

“We’ve met so many elderly carers that are just beautiful,” she said.

“You meet amazing people and it is such a rewarding thing to do.”

Mr Brown said while they had already raised their own son and daughter, now 30 and 28, the foster care was different.

“We realised once we got into fostering how different it is to bringing up your own kids,” he said.

“We’ve had a second chance at seeing it from a different perspective.

“It’s revitalised us; I’m building sand castles and going to school assemblies.”

While they have faced difficult behaviours, the couple said the boys’ progress made it worth it.

“The biggest thing for us was to put in some boundaries and some rules,” Mrs Brown said.

“Once they worked out what they could do, they would settle down.

“I look back and see how they have flourished.

“It’s important to those kids that someone stable like that cares and believes in them.”

Mr Brown said their focus was to raise the children so they could make choices about who they become, giving them opportunities and skills to do so.

“It’s quite complex, the role that we are playing,” he said.

“We are only Mary and Roger (but) we fill the position of mum and dad as carers.

“We are able to talk about their mum and dad in a loving way.”

The Browns said fostering involved partnerships between themselves, the department, the children’s extended families and schools, and they were grateful for all the support provided.

With more than 300 children in care in the Joondalup district, acting district director Ben Whitehouse said the department was looking for people who wanted to make a difference in a child or young person’s life.

It will host a foster carer information session at 8 Davidson Terrace, Joondalup on Tuesday, May 9 from 6-8pm.

“At the information session people can find out what it is like to be a foster carer, and the support and training opportunities available,” Mr Whitehouse said.

“We are looking for everyday people who enjoy looking after children, and are able to care for them on a temporary or permanent basis.

“Foster carers can be single women or men, married or same-sex couples, with or without children of their own, or young or old.

“More than 120 children in care in the Joondalup district are Aboriginal, and wherever possible they are cared for by their extended family, a member of their Aboriginal community or other Aboriginal carers.

“When Aboriginal carers are not available, the children are cared for by local foster carers.

“Every child deserves a permanent, safe and stable home, and for children in care this needs to occur as soon as possible to help them heal from the trauma they may have suffered.”

For more information, visit www.cpfs.wa.gov.au or www.facebook.com/FosterCareWa, or call 1800 182 178.

As of February 2017, there were more than 300 children in care in the Joondalup district.