Barbara has accomplished a lot in her lifetime. She’s a registered nurse, natural therapist, aromatherapist, reflexologist and an educator with her own family day-care. But she derives her greatest sense of achievement from seeing Scott, who has been in her care for 20 years, reach his goals like learning to drive.
Over the last 24 years Barbara has been an authorised carer and welcomed around 40 to 50 children into her home. “I’ve been a foster carer for 24 years and my passion is there. I love to nurture them (the children and young people who come into my care) and see them strive and start to be more independent and trusting and find themselves.”
Barbara currently has teenage twins in her care, and two long-term children who are now 20 and 21 who have been in her care since they were 3-months and 2-years-old. She has relished time spent with all the children she’s cared for but has particularly enjoyed supporting the two boys who are on the autism spectrum to accomplish their goals.
“I look at their abilities and try and encourage them to improve as much as they can in every area. Every child is rewarding in some way, a couple of the boys who are on the autism spectrum are learning to drive. I’ve had many special moments with all the kids that have come into my care over the last 20 years.”
Growing up Barbara was surrounded by siblings and wanted that family life for herself. She says becoming a carer has allowed her to experience this, “I have two brothers and two sisters, so I come from a large family. Now I have a big family of my own. My life became very busy but also very fulfilling seeing these children thrive and develop and actually being able to go to school and wanting to come home.”
In addition to Barbara’s many qualifications in nursing and education, she continues to engage in additional carer training and encourages others thinking about becoming a carer to take the next steps,
“While it can be a long process, you obviously want foster carers to looked after and well-trained as well. Go ahead and do it, it’s definitely very rewarding. There’s nothing better than taking a child in and seeing them growing and thriving.”
She believes that having a strong support network and good self-care practice is vital to her longevity as a carer.
“In terms of support I have my two adopted daughters and two grandchildren, I have a really good friendship group, and also Barnardos they’ve been really good, my caseworker is always on call if I need her.”
She continues, “I make sure I go out bushwalking and meet up with my friends and have a bit of a break and a debrief. I’ve got friends who have been fostering for a long time. One friend has been fostering for 20 years and has cared for a lot of high care children and we connect over the passion for nurturing them.”
As a recipient of a Carer Recognition Award Barbara maintains her biggest reward is helping children in her care feel safe, “Seeing the children trusting you and being part of their lives, whether they stay or move on, it is still important that you’ve been there to keep them safe, and they will remember it.”