Stretch-A-Family

Paula's Story
foster care can be wonderful for biological children too

“Emma has loved Will ever since she laid eyes on him. Often I hear her whispering to him, ‘I love you so much’.”

Paula

Age of children: 5 years old, 1.5 years old

Duration of foster care: February 2018 to present

Paula* and her biological daughter Emma* have been caring for William* since he was only a few weeks old. He is now 18 months old. We had a chat to Paula to learn more about their fostering journey.

Why did you decide to become a foster carer?

I knew after having my daughter, Emma, who is now 5, that I had room in my heart for another child. Unfortunately, I knew it wasn’t possible for me biologically. I ended up meeting a great foster dad at Emma’s childcare who shared his journey and I knew immediately that I wanted to give my love to a child who needed it.

How did you find the authorisation process?

I actually found it a generally easy process and found the assessment process quite cathartic. With the questions they ask during the assessment, like how you handle scenarios, you have to give it a lot of thought and I particularly realised how far I’d come.

Apart from the training that SAF provides, how else do you prepare for being a foster carer?

Fostering is one big surprise. You don’t know quite know how it’s going to play out. In hindsight, I think you can over-prepare. Food, clothes and a place to sleep are most important, and only from being immersed in it when Will arrived did I properly understand what else was involved. Because each child is an individual, you need to be adaptable and flexible and just take it as it comes.

How would you describe your family dynamic?

Emma has loved Will ever since she laid eyes on him. We picked Will up from the hospital when he was only 3 weeks old. By that point, we’d had numerous conversations about the process and what it means to her. I have this lovely video of when they first met, where’s she’s stroking his head and whispering to me, “He’s just so cute!” She adores him .They’ve showed nothing but love for each other. They play together and laugh together and have their own way of communicating. Emma actually misses Will when he’s at day care. When they’re in their car seats they hold hands. Often I hear her whispering to him, “I love you so much”. She’s very protective over him and tells everyone that he’s her brother.

What does family mean to you?

Biology doesn’t really come to mind when I think of family. I asked Emma what family means to her and she said being kind to each other and loving each other. I have some friends that I classify as family because we provide that sense of safety. It’s not the biology we share but our hearts and love for each other. Connection is all we need.

Will spends time with his biological family and siblings once a month and it’s great to have that added sense of togetherness. It’s crucial to his sense of self and we are all wiser for the connection. We have a lot of respect for his family.

What do you love about being a foster carer?

The obvious answer is that Emma and I love Will. I know that I’m making a difference to his life and his biological mum has always expressed that she appreciates what we’re doing. It’s also shaped both mine and Emma’s perspectives in a positive way. She’s built resilience and an understanding of the world outside herself, seeing that not all kids are from stable homes. I’ve become a better parent to her as well as a result of Will.

I also love being part of a wider community that I had no idea existed, and being involved with Stretch-A-Family which is great.

*Names & picture have been changed to protect privacy