As a semi-retired empty nester, Margi Garretty could happily be looking forward to some “down” time at this stage in her life but instead, she still has a lot of care and compassion to give. Becoming part time carers last year has been a rewarding and wonderful experience for her and husband Christopher.
Margi has worked in the disability and aged care industries for over 20 years and is currently still working around eight hours a week.
Having always been interested in foster care, she commenced in a part time role caring for a 7-year-old boy with a disability with whom she had already worked closely. Margi and Chris temporarily provided care until he was placed with a family and now he has respite care with the couple once a month, to continue building a relationship with them.
The couple has now provided respite care to eight children and say whilst it brings a huge responsibility, they also find a great sense of satisfaction knowing they are contributing to a better life for children and young people.
Among the many highs, Margi says meeting new people, receiving support from the agency and My Forever Family NSW and getting to know the children all rate a mention. Sometimes there are lows, mostly just in setting routines and agreements initially so that the children feel safe and secure.
During the covid isolation period, Margi says the Online Lounges proved very informative.
“I like that you can participate and ask questions or just listen and take in the information, she said.
“The presenters are very knowledgeable and I have been able to learn strategies and techniques to enhance the way I support the children.”
When the children come to her for part-time care she likes to find out what their likes and dislikes are, so she can offer activities accordingly.
“Setting a schedule for homework, activities and free time is important. I like to go to parks, bush walks or do any physical activities that limits the time spent on devices and social media.
“Movies, bowling, putt putt golf and swimming are also great activities. I am one for sewing, upcycling and restoring old furniture. I also encourage sustainability activities; learning to recycle, make worm farms, water saving techniques etc.”
For others considering becoming a part-time carer, Margi insists that the training received during the assessment process is very effective. She says part time care is “a huge commitment” so it needs to be done for the right reasons and with the support of family and friends.
“I feel respite is necessary for children so that they can form relationships with other families as we would with our aunties, cousins, grandparents etc. If there is a crisis within their permanent foster family, they can feel safe and secure knowing where they will be staying for short term.
“If they live permanently in a home with many other children, it gives them a chance to have more individual attention in respite care.”
She says it is important to foster trusting relationships with the children who come into care and to be a positive role model.
“As well as supporting them to learn social skills, we should ensure that they become confident, assertive young people so they can face the big wide world in the future,” she said.
“These are the reasons that we must be committed and seriously consider that we will be taking on this responsibility for the right reasons.”
Does she feel part time care also helps the carers and not just the children?
“Permanent carers need a break just like we all do at times.
“We had family and friends to help raise our children. Respite carers are those family and friends for our foster children.
“I have developed great rapport with carers I have come into contact with and hopefully they can take time out knowing that their children are in a safe and happy environment.”