there is a type of care to suit your situation & preferences
“I love looking after babies. I am a mother. I don’t like it when people say I am amazing.”
What is something that surprised you or you weren’t expecting about being a carer?
Taking one of my kids to China to meet up with his lost family! This was 12 years ago. I am not someone who enjoys flying at all, but the family wanted me to bring him over to China. His uncle is a doctor, so he paid for our flights and accommodation – I was treated like royalty! The family were amazing. They were so happy to see him. I had gotten him Cantonese lessons, so he could communicate with them.
As we got off the plane, I could see this little old lady jumping up & down – his grandma. She was gorgeous. We didn’t speak the same language, but we could communicate! After we did the trip, they would ring him every week. He still goes back now & sees them & his cousin came here to visit him. He does not have a strong bond with his birth family here, so it is great he has the link with family there.
In China he would just eat and eat at the buffets. He loved the food but ate so much it made him sick! He would gorge himself, and I had to tell him to slow down. His eating was pretty unbalanced when he came to me, but when he began having normal healthy meals and began playing cricket it evened out.
He was 13 when he came to me. I thought there was something odd with him. He would pace up and down. After a while I rang the area health centre & we got an appointment. Turns out he had an undiagnosed mental disorder. I finally got him the support that he needed. We went straight to a psychologist & he had therapy. He is good now. He is aware of his issues now & continues to get the help he needs. He knows what to do.
Age of children: 17 years, babies
Duration of foster care: Seventeen years
Type of care offered: short term & long term
Pauline is a grandmother and has been a carer with SAF for over 17 years. She has had a variety of placements and is our go-to short-term carer for babies when they enter care. We had a chat with her about her varied experiences being a foster carer
What was the motivation to become a foster carer?
I love children and have always wanted to do this. It was always my dream to finish school, do nursing & look after babies (as well as having my own!).
How did you find the assessment process?
Very good & thorough. It was interesting and exciting, but it was 18 years ago, I’m sure it has changed now – I was like a sponge, taking it all in.
Apart from the training that SAF provides, what other steps did you take to prepare for being a foster carer?
My nursing background and having already had my own kids helped. It meant I already had experience with kids & looking after them.
How would you describe your family dynamic?
I have two adult sons, both with their own children. I adore my grandchildren, they come here every other weekend. They are so proud of us looking after the babies. My grandson wrote an assessment for school that had to be about generous people in the community & he wrote about me! I was amazed, but he is very proud. I think it is really good for them.
What does family mean to you?
Everything. I cherish my family & just adore my grandchildren. Adding these other children to the family, for a short or long time, is wonderful. They are such good fun! Like my grandkids they love to sing and dance & dress up. My first ever foster child just turned 30! I think it’s incredible. He was 13 when he came, just starting high school. He and I are still connected – mainly via Facebook. It hasn’t always been easy, but we were very close.
What do you love about being a foster carer?
I love looking after babies. I am a mother. I don’t like it when people say I am amazing. I like the company & these kids need somewhere to live, so it’s good for all of us. I love caring for them – even doing their washing! I’m a mother.
What are your biggest challenges as a carer?
There are times as a carer that can be quite challenging. Challenging behaviours you face from the kids, even little children. They test you. Teenagers can be hard, but any age can be challenging, depending what they have been through. They can’t help it. You need to be very mindful of what they’ve been through & you need to really get to know them. Sometimes I’m not sure that enough questions have been asked about children when they come into care, and before they are placed.
What are some things you love about the child/children in your care?
Caring for the babies. I call them “my babies”. They are like little sponges. I love the company and companionship. You can have a great time looking after them. Some of the time it can be hard work – especially if they are not well. One little guy I looked after had a heart condition. That was really hard because he was so sick, but we got through it. He is about to turn 1 and he is absolutely gorgeous. He is now living with his grandparents close by. We still catch up. My granddaughter was so happy to catch up with him again recently. He is now such a happy little baby – just gorgeous! They all grow up being happy and I love to watch them grow up healthy.
What does the future look like for you and the child/ren in your care?
I would love to continue with the babies. Who knows what’s in the future? I’ll stay as I am till my older one finishes high school. He recently turned 17. He has no one else, so I’ll help him out. They never want to leave when they are 18 – I almost have to push them out the door! They love it here. But once they have the support they need to become independent it can work out really well. But they still sometimes come back!
What do you like most about being a carer with SAF?
When I started with SAF it was like an extended family! Always someone looking out for you. I know I can always ring.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a carer?
I try and advocate for people to become carers whenever possible. It kind of amazes me how people say they would love to do it but couldn’t give them back – but that’s a cop out! Of course it breaks your heart when they leave – you have to raise them like your own. They need you to be there for them & build that trust and attachment. That is such a shame – those people are missing out – and the kids too!