Driven by their dream of having a big family like the ones they were raised in, Carly and her husband found themselves fostering three sisters over the course of 13 years.
The thought of separating sibling groups never crossed their minds, and after being in Carly’s care for thirteen years, her daughters have come to them to ask if they can provide respite or part-time care to other siblings in out-of-home care.
“When we signed up to be foster carers, we didn’t even think of fostering one child. We’ve always stepped into it wanting to care for sibling groups. We could see so many kids out there getting split, and I just didn’t want that to ever happen. To be able to keep siblings together was our dream."
After a short exploration of IVF, Carly and her husband decided to begin their foster care journey.
“I thought you know what, we’re not even going to worry about our problems conceiving because there are so many children out there that need our help, that’s the way we’re going to go.”
This decision saw Carly and her husband welcome a 4 year-old and 12 month-old sisters into their family followed by their 5 month-old sister the following year. For thirteen years the three sisters have been able to live together under the care of Carly and her husband as a family.
The pull of caring for sibling groups came from Carly and her husband’s respective upbringings in large families, naturally they found themselves drawn to the rhythms of a wide family network and have stayed connected with their foster daughters’ birth parents.
“My husband and I are family oriented and come from a large family, so the idea of splitting children up from their siblings was not even a thought for us. We catch up with our kids’ biological family and they’re a part of our extended family. The family contact is very natural, it just looks like a big family getting together. Their family is a part of our family.”
In addition to being able to form a large family support network for the children in their care, Carly and her husband see the very unique benefit and impact keeping siblings together has for the girls in being able to go home together as a family unit.
“When we have family contact, we’re able to ensure the sibling group is able to go back to the same home together as a family at the end of the day, and that’s once less pressure that they have to go through.”
An ongoing relationship with their girls’ birth family has seen their eldest turn 16 years-old and leaving care to live with her birth father while maintaining a loving connection to her foster carers and younger sisters.
Carly sees this as the most rewarding aspect of being a foster carer, “Having a good relationship with their birth family means children feel more secure about their identity and their place in the world.”
While being in foster care is a unique and time daunting experience for children, Carly has found some of the trepidation around the unknown is alleviated when a sibling bond is kept intact.
“Children entering a foreign home with people that they don’t know, are given a better opportunity to feel safe when they’re able to have somebody that they know and have a connection with, in the form of a sibling. I believe this is the most important thing to the track to happiness for them.”
Besides having someone they can relate to and socialise with; Carly has noticed older siblings can provide answers to any questions about family history the younger siblings may have. She says, “They still have the same sibling rivalry that any other child has, and they also have somebody that is going through the same story as they are. It’s very rewarding, just to be able to see them in a loving, stable home that they deserve.”
The benefits of providing a home for siblings may be reflected in recent developments in Carly’s family – her foster daughters have asked if they can open their home to sibling groups that need part-time care.
“Our daughters approached us and have asked if we’d like to provide part-time care to other siblings so that they can experience the love and care that they have. That made everything we’ve gone through even more special, to know our girls have felt so safe that they want to provide that opportunity to other kids.”
After 13 years of foster caring Carly and her husband are now in the process of becoming guardians of their two foster daughters and can’t imagine their lives without them, “Fostering caring has made life worthwhile. To get up every day and be able to see the smiles on their faces and see them achieve what they’ve achieved it’s a very rewarding experience.”
“I cannot recommend foster caring enough, just to be able to see children in a loving, stable home that they deserve, and opening up your life and home to a child in need is just incredible, honestly, there are no words to describe it,” concludes Carly.
*Names have been changed