Joy and Anthony

Setting the next generation up for success — Joy and Anthony’s story

Providing stability and routine is one of the most important things — then they can focus on everything else important in life.

Joy and Anthony began their journey as foster carers more than 16 years ago, first dipping their toes into carer life by providing short breaks (respite) for their good friends who had five teenagers in their care at the time.

After welcoming just one of the teenagers into their home for the weekend, the couple knew their lives would take on a new path.

“When our first foster child went home after respite, it was that sense of — wow, look what we can do,” Joy reflects.

“We had the house, we had the financial capability, and most of all, we had the time to offer a child.”

Having spent time in the foster care system herself as a teenager, Joy has a unique and deeply empathetic view of the longing for love and support all children in her care — and those in the system in general — can experience on a daily basis.

“I know that I was super lucky to have fantastic supports to get through my teenage years to become who I am now,” she says.

“If I can assist just one little person or teenager to have the support they need in that moment — give them skills to be able to function in our world, and have the potential to have an amazing life, then I’ve done my job.”

Many children who end up in care may have come from traumatic backgrounds, having experienced neglect or abuse, and others may be working through behavioural issues or live with cognitive or physical disabilities.

Joy reflects on the broad spectrum of children with differing ages and abilities she and Anthony have provided short and long-term, emergency and short breaks care for.

“We’ve provided care for a newborn baby, as well as children with a history of trauma which means they need that little bit more support, through to children who have medical needs and disabilities,” she says.

“When you’ve got these really angsty kids who’ve had tremendous trauma happen in their life who are just so self-sufficient and don’t let anybody in, and they finally start letting it out and start being who they are — it’s pretty awesome,” she says.

Like many carers, the couple also have three biological children who they raise and nurture alongside their foster kids. And it’s proven to be beneficial for all, as Anthony explains.

“The relationship between our children and the foster children can actually be beneficial because they sometimes see it as, ‘there’s another child in the home, so I’ve got a peer I can get to know’,” he says.

“Our kids have been great with it — for two of our children it’s what they’ve known for a very long time.

“They’ve been able to say, ‘hey, let me show you where this is’, or ‘these are the pets’, and it removes some of the tension for the child in care who may have just experienced something quite traumatic. It just takes the edge off.”

The experience of foster caring has also seen the couple’s own children learn about life paths they may otherwise never have gained a true understanding of. 

“Having foster children has opened their eyes to the outside world and community,” Anthony says.

“It’s always been our goal to give back to the community and instil good morals in them and set the next generation up for success.”

Having been through the system herself, Joy knows the importance of the foster children maintaining contact with their biological families and acknowledging that’s where the kids want to end up and eventually feel at home again.

“It’s really important they have the opportunity to be with their family, whether it’s an aunty, an uncle, a grandparent, and to have them go and be with their family,” Joy says. “I’d like that for my own children and it was something that was really important for me when I was in care — to get back to my family.”

Anthony agrees.

“Just because we’re not ‘mum and dad’, doesn’t mean we can’t be somebody to those little people and give them something. We’ll never replace those people in their lives, and we’re not here to do that — we’re just here to be somebody for them, to provide that emotional support and that stability while they’re with us,” he says.

For the couple, one of the most rewarding parts of providing care has been giving new hope to children who may not have had the support they needed to fulfil their potential.

“You can have a child that comes from a really horrific and horrendous place, think, okay, I’ve got food, I’ve got a home, I’ve got people who care about me ­— then they can put their energy into being themselves, instead of all the worry of the world that’s coming down on them — that shouldn’t be their problem,” Anthony explains.

“To have a child come into our care who has absolutely no self-worth, no self-esteem, and has been in a situation where abuse is just everyday life, it’s really important to help them grow and let them flourish,” Joy says.

She, especially, feels the experience of being a foster carer has changed her for the better, instilling in her an appreciation of the wonderment life brings.

“Being a foster carer has definitely changed me as a person. It’s made me realise that normal life drama is not drama. It’s made me much stronger, and I’ve learned to rely more on myself and family, and realise that there are so many amazing little snippets of happiness in our life,” Joy reveals.

“To see kids in our care complete school, or have an amazing career they’re perfect for, or become an absolutely amazing parent, has been beautiful.”

Joy and Anthony