Molly* and her husband Joe* never really considered becoming foster carers. Already parents to four biological children, it wasn’t something they knew or thought much about.
When their daughter Sarah* – who has a mild intellectual disability – began attending a school for children with special needs, she became fast friends with Zoe*. At the time, Zoe was living in the local area with a foster carer.
“I got a call one day in October from Zoe’s foster carer explaining that she was no longer able to look after Zoe,” recalls Molly. “She told me Zoe was living in temporary accommodation in the country whilst waiting to be placed with a new family.”
“I immediately contacted Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services and asked if Zoe could stay with us until they found a suitable placement for her,” she says. “I really wanted her to be placed with the right family – one who would understand what she’d been through.”
Due to her complex needs and traumatic upbringing, Molly knew it was essential for Zoe to be placed with a loving and capable family who were able to understand her needs and help her thrive. “I didn’t want the process to be rushed. I wanted them to find the right people.”
Zoe had been living with Molly and her family for four months before Molly and Joe decided to formalise the process by becoming her long-term foster carers. “By then, we already couldn’t imagine a life without her – so we joined Life Without Barriers.”
From there, Molly and her family underwent an in-depth assessment and training process to make sure they were the “right fit” for Zoe.
That was seven years ago, and despite becoming foster carers “by accident”, Molly and Joe say Zoe’s impact on their lives – and the lives of their children – has been “immeasurable”.
Zoe – who is now 19 and still lives with Molly and Joe – has also come a long way in seven years. Listening to Molly speak about their foster journey, she says, “makes her teary”.
“I just feel so secure. I feel so loved, I feel so happy, and I love being part of the family.”
Before moving in with Molly and Joe, Zoe says she “didn’t feel heard”. “I struggled in some of my other placements. I didn’t feel listened to or understood.”
Though their journey hasn’t been without its struggles, Molly says watching Zoe grow into the person she is today has been “amazing”.
Molly describes how when Zoe first came to live with them, she seemed confused, distressed and weary.
“The positive change in her is just incredible. It has been so rewarding to watch her blossom – she’s so happy and secure in herself now.”
To build trust, Molly and Zoe would initially spend long hours together in the kitchen; cooking, baking and, eventually, talking.
“When Zoe first came to live with the family, I knew she wanted to talk – but she was hesitant and didn’t know how to go about it. The ice-breaker for us was cooking. While we cooked, we would talk, and over the years, she just began to open-up more and more.”
Molly firmly believes that when the foster care placement is the right fit, amazing things can happen.
“People say how different she is and that they can’t believe how far she’s come.”
“I always say: yes, we’ve made a difference to her life – but she’s also made a difference to ours.”
Despite the uniqueness of Zoe and Molly’s situation, which will see Zoe remain with Molly’s family, Molly says it is important for prospective foster carers to keep in mind that placements may not be permanent – and that foster care is not without its challenges.
“Many people who foster can make such a difference to someone’s life – but it may not always be forever.”
“Some young people don’t get the best start in life,” Molly says, “but Zoe is a testament to the fact that if you invest time, love and support in someone, there is likely to be many positive changes – and the positives far outweigh the negatives.”
“At the end of the day, foster care is about giving a child or young person the opportunity to be the best person they can be.”
If you think you could help a child like Zoe thrive, Life Without Barriers encourages you to get in touch today.
For more information on becoming a foster carer, call 1300 592 227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org