For more than three years, John and Verity have welcomed foster children into their home for respite, emergency, and short term stays.
Children from ages two to 18, individuals and siblings, one night, a month, a year: John and Verity have had them all through their doors.
“No two situations are the same, so you have to learn to be flexible,” Verity said.
The family has started taking on foster children for longer term stays, a move Verity said was prompted by the need for carers to take on teenagers, something that can be challenging at times.
“There's such a great need for carers, so in the circumstances we thought we would trial it for 12 months,” she said.
“I work full time so my husband puts in a lot of effort to look after the children and having them attend appointments such as medical, dental, speech therapy and counselling to name but a few,” Verity said.
“Having him free during the day makes it much easier, especially for the little ones.”
Two teenagers have been with Verity for almost a year. One will transition to independent living when she turns 18, while Verity hopes the 16-year-old will stay with them until he too turns 18.
"He has fitted in to our household really well and is easy to care for. He is really happy with us and hopefully he will soon be joined by another teenager,” Verity said.
Verity said she wasn’t a babysitter but she does have a strict ‘no technology’ rule for the littlies, the activities they get to participate in make up for it.
“I was trying to decide something special I could offer the children. I'm a sewer and thought 'why don't we do that together?’ It’s a skill I can share and no matter their age they always enjoy getting involved,” Verity said.
“For the children who stay a few months, I try to make them a small patchwork quilt for them to take with them and all of them get to sew a pillowcase. The little ones get to choose their fabrics while older ones can make it themselves.”
Often the children opt to make items for their mum, and are understandably proud of their achievement.
“Our 16-year-old boy chose to make a tiger cushion for his mum. He designed it and learnt how to applique, it was really beautiful,” Verity said.
“They all love the dogs too, they seem to be really good therapy for kids. They'll go play, throw the ball or just cuddle up to them.”
Verity said Challenge Foster Care always responded quickly to concerns, providing support and a carer hotline.
While it was always sad to see the children move on, Verity focusses on making their time together a positive break in their journey that she hopes they remember.
“There are times when it is quite challenging,” Verity said.
“Children in foster care react differently to everyday stress and knowing how to steer them creatively makes a big difference in their coping mechanisms. Learning how to do this has been quite a journey.”
John and Verity have great admiration for the commitment of other carers they have met who have been providing foster care for many years.
“While we have only been doing this for a relatively short time, compared to other carers, it is rewarding being able to give back and help kids who are in need,” Verity said.
“We have a lot of empathy and care for these kids. We provide them with a safe place, where they feel happy and secure for whatever length of time we have them. It has certainly been a steep learning curve and we are still learning.”
If you want to make a difference in a young person’s life, contact Challenge Foster Care on 1800 084 954 or visit www.challengecommunity.org.au for more information.