Meet Fiona – an interview with a foster carer
Fiona and her husband Chris have been caregivers with Youth Horizons for seven years in our Waikato foster care team.
What made you decide to be a caregiver with Youth Horizons?
About 10 years ago, Chris and I looked into adoption as a way of expanding our family. It was a daunting and very complicated process. But then I saw a Youth Horizons ad on TradeMe to recruit caregivers. Chris and I talked about it on and off, and one day just jumped in. We have never looked back – and that was seven years ago now!
What’s the best thing about being a caregiver?
Seeing the young person improve and grow. When you get that first hug or smile, or when they actually want to tell you something awesome that they did at school – THAT is what makes it all worth it. I am still in contact with rangatahi we have been caregivers for in the past, and sometimes they call to tell us how much we impacted their lives.
It is very humbling being a caregiver, and very rewarding too. It has taught our whole family to be more empathetic. It has taught me to slow down and that some things are not as urgent as I once thought. If my young person needs to chat about their day or wants to kick a ball around outside with me, dinner prep can wait. Seeing how much the young person improves makes me think, ‘wow, I helped with that!’
What keeps you going when the ‘going gets tough’?
I am lucky that my husband is here; he does a lot to help, as well as working full-time. We can tag-team when I am tired or need a break. The training from YH really helps when we get into a tricky situation, and I know my team are only a phone call away if I can’t sort the situation out myself.
You also need to remember that these kids are likely traumatised and have had tough situations in their young lives – they’re not just being naughty. You need patience and to try to see the behaviour as a result of what they’ve been through, rather than who they are.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a caregiver?
DO IT! Think about it first, talk to the foster care teams at YH, go to the info days, get all the information and think about it again. Contact me to talk about it – I’m realistic about fostering and don’t look at it through rose-tinted glasses. Yes, it can be hard work, but the support is there with YH. I talk to someone from the foster care team 4-5 times a week and know they are always at the end of an email or phone call if I need help. We get training and supervision and spend time with other caregivers, so we know we’re not alone. It’s a great organisation to be involved with.
For more information about foster care, visit: https://www.youthorizons.org.nz/become-a-foster-carer/