For Lake Macquarie couple Lisa and Geoff, the decision to become foster carers was a simple one.
“We foster because we enjoy it and because it makes the children happy,” Geoff said.
“It means we can share our experiences and our values with them as well as our hobbies, our interests and our families.”
For the last year they’ve considered themselves fortunate to be respite carers for eight-year-old Toby*.
Every time he visits they roll out the welcome mat by replicating something you might see at a sports match.
“We have this opening ceremony, because he is so sports oriented,” Lisa said.
“We have music playing and then we turn on an electric candle and then we unpack his clothes and walk the dogs.
“It’s not even a conscious thing anymore, it’s this routine, we all love it, especially Toby*, and it always involves some laughter.”
The couple’s love for Toby is immediately obvious.
“He is part of the family, he’s met our parents and brothers and sisters and friends,” Geoff said.
“A couple of months ago he said I love you for the first time and it was pretty special.”
Every attempt is made to create memorable experiences for Toby*. They often go to Sydney to see a theatre show and visit family but one of their favourite things to do is play games and read books.
However, Toby isn’t the only child the couple have welcomed into their lives.
Since 2016, Lisa and Geoff have helped shape the future of six other young people aged six to 14.
When asked why they have chosen to be respite carers their answer is simple – they have space in their hearts and home and get great satisfaction from helping.
“It’s a combination I think of being Catholic and the social justice aspect of that as well as there is an obvious need in the community,” Lisa said.
“Also, it opens up a new world to us – a colourful innocent world that we wouldn’t normally have access to, and it really opens our eyes to our own problems, it puts it all in perspective.
“Our problems are not as big as we think they are.”
Lisa adds that being respite carers has made them grateful for the dedication and hard work of long-term foster carers.
“We don’t have capacity to be full-time carers and this has made us really appreciate what they do.”
The pair encourage anyone who can to become foster carers. Whether it’s long-term, short-term or respite you can make a real difference to the life of a child or young person in need.
Lisa encourages people to push through the difficult early stages.
“It’s different with every child, every child has their own challenges and fears,” she said.
Lisa and Geoff add it is helpful to have a supportive service provider, like CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning.
“CatholicCare have been outstanding,” Lisa said.
“They encourage us to do training, they invite us to meet people and they’ve been very open to receiving our concerns and our doubts and they’re always happy to help.”