UnitingCare West’s Futures Foster Care service is looking for people with empathy and compassion to provide a home to young people with high care needs who are no longer able to live with their families.
Futures provides long-term disability and therapeutic foster care options for children and young people who may have significant trauma and abuse histories, as well as developmental, physical and/or medical care needs.
Neil and Beth Reynolds fostered their first child around 18 years ago, after raising five children of their own. They now share their lives with five foster children, aged 29, 11, 10, seven and five.
Luke was 11 when he came to them through the Futures team, then called Mofflyn Child and Family Care Services.
“Luke had a severe learning disability, so for him to go from not being able to walk up a short flight of steps, to now at the age of 29 to be living independently and working in a supported workshop, is such a great outcome,” Neil said.
“He had a lot of trauma in his life created by his parents, who in the end, chose to give him up. Being a part of a loving family has made a significant difference in his life.”
The Reynolds’ second foster child Jake joined the family in June 2008 as a baby with severe medical complications. In his second year of life he spent a total of 128 nights and 230 days in hospital.
“Jake has a condition called 22 Deletion Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, chronic lung disease, is non-verbal, wheelchair dependent and receives nourishment through a PEG feeding tube. It was only through Beth’s efforts that he got through those first two years,” Neil said.
“Despite this, he lives a good, strong life and is cherished beyond all belief. He has a really strong, loving community around him, and while he can’t do what a lot of kids can, what he can do gives him – and us – a lot of joy.
“While it’s very difficult to adopt in WA, we were so thrilled to be granted a Special Guardianship Order for Jake just over a year ago, which is as close to adoption as you can get.”
Robert, aged seven, was just four months old when he joined the family. He had a serious hole in his heart, along with other developmental issues, including foetal alcohol syndrome. His Sister Alison, now aged 10, joined him a year later at the age of four.
Their latest addition, James is a five-year-old from Geraldton, who has high level Cerebral Palsy and is fed through a nasal gastric tube, is non-verbal and wheelchair dependent.
“Why did we decide to foster? It was simple really, our kids were getting older and we had a spare bedroom, so thought why not? It’s incredibly rewarding.
“There are challenges in being a foster carer, but the joy you get back from the young people is priceless. If you’ve got the ability, the room in your heart and the room in your home, I couldn’t recommend the experience highly enough. We wouldn’t swap it for anything in the world.”
Fiona Cafferty, UnitingCare West’s Practice Lead – Children’s Services, said the support provided to young people by Futures Foster Carers like Neil and Beth was critical in helping them to grow and develop to their full potential.
“We believe all children have the right to grow and develop in a safe, nurturing family environment and I would urge anyone who is considering the idea of fostering to please get in touch with us to have a conversation,” Fiona said.
Futures is looking for people who have empathy and compassion, who are passionate and resilient and are able to make a long term commitment to nurture children and support their growth and development. Training and ongoing support is provided. To find out more, call 1300 663 298.