The greatest privilege — Jodie’s story

Being a foster carer has made my life. It gives my life purpose.

Jodie was driving to work one day when she saw a billboard that would be the catalyst for an entirely new adventure. It read: we need foster carers.

“There was a 1300-number, so I rang the number and spoke to a fantastic guy and they welcomed me with open arms,” she explains. 

“I didn’t think I could even become a foster carer because I was single, living on my own and I had a career and was working full-time — but when I asked the question, ‘could I be considered’, they said yes.”

Fast forward seven years and Jodie has found a new passion for life providing short and long-term care, short breaks and emergency care for dozens of children unable to live at home with their own families because of abuse or neglect.

Her first placement brings back especially fond memories for Jodie.

“I remember him, he was just beautiful — I cried all the way to work. It was only respite, so I picked him up on the Friday night after school and I dropped him to school Monday morning. The experience just melted my heart,” Jodie says.

“And from there I just wanted to foster as many kids as possible.”

While she pours her heart and soul into caring for foster children as if they were her own, Jodie recognises the importance of including biological parents throughout the journey where possible.

“When I have the children, all they want is to be with family,” Jodie says.

“We always talk about family — whether it’s mum, dad or grandma. It’s where kids want to belong, and they want to go back to family — it’s where they should be.

“I engage the children’s mums and/or dads by sending them photos. If it's mum’s birthday we make a cake together and then we go and choose a present together and they take that to family visits.

“I feel really privileged that I’m able to look after these children in a safe environment until their mum, dad or kin is in a position to care for them again.”

And while Jodie knows her part to play in the lives of the kids in her care is always temporary, saying goodbye can be difficult.

“The toughest part of reunification is you can’t help growing to love these children. Even if they may have experienced trauma, together you learn to deal with that and work through that with them,” she admits.

“It will never be easy, no matter how many foster children you have. No matter who they are or how long they’re in my care for, it’s beautiful to see them go — because that’s the ultimate goal — but you always miss them.

“Even though my heart breaks, I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to give them love and care, even for a short time.”

As a full-time shift worker, one of Jodie’s biggest challenges — and perhaps one of her greatest triumphs — is staying organised to ensure she’s able to balance her career while providing for her foster children the best she can. 

“At one stage I had three children, so I had to be super organised. I’d go to bed and there would be the school bags and school lunches lined up like an army camp. It’s also important to ensure the kids get the best of everything —nutrition, exercise, one-on-one time — which has always been a big focus of mine,” she says

“Because I am on my own, it’s also where you need to use the support system available like your support agency and the department, to put your hand up and say ‘hey, I actually need help’.”

“There’s never a reason to be scared or apprehensive because there’s always a way — always someone there to help, and someone you can call.”

Perhaps a lesser-known element of foster caring, and one that Jodie is adamant in educating potential carers on, is the fact that carers are given the choice to decide which children they want to take on, and what type of care they’re able to provide.

“As a carer, we get magnificent support from Child Safety and from the organisations that we belong to,” she explains. “This is my home and I have a choice about who comes into my home, and whether I have the capacity to provide emergency, short break, short-term or long-term care — it’s always my choice.” 

“The department will give you a call and provide some background about the kid needing care — their age, any trauma, where they’ve come from, and what my responsibilities would be — and then it’s entirely up to me whether I bring that child into my home.”

Jodie remembers the feeling of her heart coming alive when she first experienced providing a child with the love and support they truly deserved.

“There’s a misconception that these children are naughty — and yes, they may have suffered some sort of trauma — but for the most part, it’s just that mum and dad can’t look after them. So, we need to give them love, make sure they’re safe, and give them a home,” Jodie says.

“I believe the most important thing you can give to the kids is love. They’re children, and they first and foremost need to be loved — then comes the stability, consistency, routine, nutrition and exercise.”

Being a foster carer changed Jodie’s life, allowing her to fulfil her life’s purpose and reap the rewards of seeing the children she cares for grow and prosper.

“There was a circumstance where I had a teenage boy and he was struggling but after working with him he said, ‘I don’t feel like I'm a kid in care anymore — I'm the kid that I used to want to be.’

“About six months after that, he wrote me a letter thanking me for all the things I had done for him.

“Just to know you’re thought of, remembered or appreciated — even for that small time — is incredible.”