Lisa and Clayton

Giving back to the community – Lisa and Clayton's story

“Fostering is just such a huge journey that you didn't even realise what you were missing before you started.”

After discussing the concept of giving back to the community with the young people she worked with, Lisa began to think about her own life and how she too could give back. One idea resonated with her time and time again – fostering.

Lisa brought up the idea with her husband Clayton and they had some honest conversations about whether fostering was right for them. “I started those conversations and then it gradually built a bit of momentum between us,” she says.

One of the most important discussions the couple had was about what impact fostering would have on their three primary school-aged children. They talked about their fears as well as the positive influence it could have on their whole family. “We wanted to give back to our community and we wanted to role model that for our kids as well,” explains Lisa.

The decision to ‘have a crack’ at fostering – as Clayton put it – was made as a family. Lisa and Clayton explained to their own children why they wanted to foster, and then worked through their emotions, ensuring they understood they weren’t less important than foster children.

As Lisa and Clayton’s youngest child was used to being the baby of the family, the initial placements were a bit of an adjustment for her. But Lisa soon found that for all her children, fostering opened a door to a different world.

“There are some children out there who have had a really rough start or have had something really serious happen in their life and we need to help them out. And the kids came on board with that – they have been just as loving, and they have just as many sibling fights as any other child,” she says.

Before they started fostering, Lisa and Clayton both felt they hadn’t finished as parents. They’ve since been fostering for over six years. “It is joy,” describes Clayton. “You’re just trying to provide for someone else. Now fostering is just a part of who I am.”

While joking that the paperwork at the start of the process was the most Clayton had written in his life, Lisa says the initial training they had to do taught them about rules and regulations as well as the standards that carers must adhere to.

Foster carers complete training prior to their approval and additional focused training is required during their first year as an approved carer, which is provided by the foster care agency.

“There’s always someone there. If you need something, you can give them a call,” says Clayton.

Lisa adds that you can draw on your support network, including after hours numbers if there’s an emergency, and medical professionals when needed.

The couple admit there have been some tough moments during their foster care journey and they’ve grown up along the way. “It’s that resilience to be able to go, okay, this has happened, it’s not the end of the world. We’re going to find our solutions and work our way through it,” says Lisa.

“You’re going to have good days and bad days regardless of whether you’re a foster carer or not,” adds Clayton.

“You’ve got to work with a range of different personalities, different departments and different bureaucracy,” continues Lisa. “But at the end of the day, the difference you're making for that young person and their life far outweighs those challenges, and a lot of those challenges – they pass.”

“In more recent years we've just had this beautiful partnership. We have one meeting where our support agency is there, child safety officer is there, I'm there and the child, and we are all on the same page and we're all working together for what is in their best interests.

“Everybody's on the same page and we're going, okay, where are we headed? What are our goals for this young person? This is where we're going. And that's when it works really well,” she says, smiling.

While reunification is the goal everyone is working towards, the end of a placement can be bitter sweet. Lisa says it’s difficult because, “your heart just expands to include all these kids.”

“They become part of your life,” agrees Clayton.

But Lisa adds, “The grief and the loss that comes with caring for other people's children, is part of the journey.”  

Lisa is currently a stay-at-home mother with plans to resume work outside the home.

“I’ve met people from all different walks of life who work shift work and full-time jobs. That’s no barrier to caring,” she says. “The agency will work with you to arrange placements that meet your needs and work well with your family.”

“The children just want someone to be there and love them. They want that routine. They want to know where the next meal's coming from, that it's all in a nice predictable fashion. And if you can provide that, you can foster care.”

Lisa also thinks the fear of the unknown stops a lot of passionate people from becoming foster carers. “There's going to be a million unknowns, but all those unknowns are there when you're starting a new job or when you are having your own children,” she says.

“Until you actually do it, you're never going to know. So I would say to everyone, just do it. Just get in there, give it a go."

“If you want to dip your toe in the water, you could just start by being a respite carer,” says Clayton. “It might only be a weekend or school holidays.”

“Whether it's a short-term emergency care or a long-term placement, if that's what you're after then it's there and available,” adds Lisa.

When it comes down to it, Lisa says foster caring is just being a mum to someone else.

“I'm looking out for the children in our community. If we all put our hand up and say I'm here to help and what can I do, then the placements are there.” 

Image shows Clayton wearing sunglasses smiling down at the camera, while holding a blue plastic watering can and watering the corn in the vegetable garden.

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1300 550 877

I didn't realise how much capacity my heart had for love.