This week is Foster Care Week, a great opportunity to celebrate and thank our wonderful foster carers for the incredible work they do caring for vulnerable children and young people in our community.
Being a foster carer is no ordinary role; it comes with a range of responsibilities, and each day can bring new challenges, life-changing experiences and great rewards. Foster carers give children and young people who cannot live with their birth families, a secure, stable and loving family environment to heal from their past and grow so they can have a strong future. For that, we say thank you.
CatholicCare’s foster carers come from all backgrounds. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, working or retired, have a big family or are an empty nester – you can change a child’s life.
One of these foster carers is Lauren Chelman, who began fostering 9-year-old Sarah* when she was just six weeks old.
“I felt I had love to give,” Lauren says. “I wanted to give another child a home, give them love, security and help meet their needs. I often hear people say to me that it’s selfless, but I think I am the one who is so lucky. Sarah has brought so much joy to my life.”
Lauren was asked to care for Sarah when she was born prematurely and could not live with her parents. It was only two years later that Sarah was diagnosed with cancer. Following treatment, she received a diagnosis of epilepsy and then in 2018, a second recurrence of cancer.
But in 2019, Lauren adopted Sarah and she is currently loving life, has a brave outlook and continues to be a fighter. Lauren admits it’s not your average foster care and adoption story.
“It’s been such an important journey and I’ve honestly found it so rewarding,” she says. “You don’t have to give birth to a child to love them, that’s for sure.
This unconditional love and care are the very qualities that drew Lauren to become a foster carer.
“My mum’s friend had been a carer for as long as I can remember,” she says. "Seeing her as I grew up, foster care is always something I wanted to do – even when I was a teenager, I knew I would do it. My mum’s friend had a range of different experiences; supporting children in emergency care, helping kids with additional needs and longer-term foster care children, and it really opened my eyes.
“I would recommend anyone be a foster carer or consider adoption. It’s such a rewarding experience. It’s not just about providing care – I mean Sarah is loved and secure and safe, but that’s so meaningful for me too.”
Lauren has the benefit of a family-like support network through CatholicCare Hunter-Manning.
“They always listen,” she says. “The caseworkers are really good and always help us out. The team has been so supportive of me through the adoption process, which is quite lengthy and challenging at times. I relied on their support and understanding.”
CatholicCare's extended Carers Support Network also enables Lauren to talk to other carers and learn from their experiences and similar challenges.
Despite the special relationships and the complex health journey through which Lauren has supported Sarah over her nine years, as with most families she says she just wants all her kids to achieve what they want in their lives.
“I want them all to be happy and content,” Lauren says. “For Sarah, I hope she will grow up healthy and happy and know she is well-loved. It’s the joy I get from all my kids that matters to me.”
CatholicCare urgently need foster carers in the Hunter-Manning areas who can provide safe, loving homes for children and young people in need. By opening your heart and your home, you’re giving these children the opportunity to receive unconditional love, care and a sense of family and connection. This security provides them with hope for the future and a stable environment for them to grow and thrive.
Becoming a foster carer is a big step, but you’re not alone. CatholicCare will be with you every step of the way, providing training, an allowance and 24/7 support.
Different types of care may suit your family. A child can need a place to stay for a night, a week, several months or long-term.
Please give us a call on 1300 590 898 or visit www.catholiccare.org.au/foster-care.
To hear about another story from CC foster carers, watch Sabine and Peter's journey in the video below.