Dialog Box

Shannon Simshauser

“With one click of a button and saying yes, you can significantly alter the course of a child’s life.”

That’s the advice Shannon Simshauser would love potential carers to take on board.

And she well knows the difference it can make to a child when they are taken into a home for foster or kinship care.

Shannon and her husband are mixed cropping and cattle farmers on a large regional property in Narrabri, New South Wales. They have three grown children and currently have two foster children, a  girl (16) and a boy (10)with severe disabilities who is non-verbal.

Shannon is Aboriginal and has been a carer for the past five years, initially starting out with respite care. She has always lived in regional area and has fond memories of childhood adventures and fun outdoors, so these are  experiences she likes to provide for the children in her care.

After a period of time doing respite care, a situation arose where an incident led to a need for permanent placement for a little boy. They took him in and have been his family now for the past four years.

The need for providing a nurturing family environment became very clear to Shannon as she became more and more aware of children needing families and the lack of available carers.

“We have the most amazing time forming bonds with the children and often with their own families and siblings,” Shannon said.

“One of the best things for our family is seeing the kids thriving and starting to see the joy in their eyes, living the farm life.

“We raise therapeutic animals, that teach the children compassion and responsibility but also, how to enjoy simple things and how to be children.”

Shannon concedes that one of the very few lows about being a respite carer is getting the dreaded phone call "your child leaves today", especially when they have made family plans for an outing or event and the child feels sad about missing out.

“I try to limit excessive forward planning, and live everyday as if it were near ending. So we do something special every day and focus on being together and making cherished memories.”

Although living in a rural area is something she is truly passionate about, Shannon says the only low is that there is a lack of service providers; or more importantly, practitioners familiar with OOHC or trauma.

“As a result of this, I can travel up to 500kms a week to attend appointments,” she said.

Shannon and her husband have now cared for over 50 children; covering emergency care, respite and long-term care. They have had children from the ages of 0-18 and are happy to focus on placement breakdowns, complex needs and children with disability.

Something that has been a godsend for Shannon is the My Forever Family NSW training, both online and face-to-face.

“Having the potential to have a house full of children with complex needs - means it's hard to access competent sitters,” she said.

“With online training, I can skill-build without disrupting my family’s routine”.

“Often people create their own ideas of fostering, and it's not always what people expect.

“We are caravanning crazy, we are afforded the freedom of caravanning with the children and have even taken children around Victoria and the Great Ocean Road for six weeks!”

Whilst she notes that no one can ever fully describe and help you to understand the emotions you will go through when becoming a carer, Shannon says that watching the children do better than what was ever thought possible is a heart-warming reward.

“My advice is to use all the resources available, there is so much support available for new carers.

“Find established carers and lean on their wisdom, never be afraid to accept help.

“Never be afraid to start your journey for fear of letting the children go. It's possible to continue relationships into the future and maintaining the connections can set the kids up for a lifetime of healthy attachments”.