By Lynne Sawyers
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual
When Barnardos Australia foster carer Lynne Sawyers (pictured), took in her first foster-child she couldn’t have guessed that she would still be caring for children in crisis almost 20 years later.
Lynne, from Orange in the Central West, has four adult children of her own and has fostered more than 200 children and young people during the last two decades.
She says she loves all of the children that have come into her home and considers them all to be family.
“And they know it! I’ve got some lovely cards and notes that they’ve left over the years.
“I have what I call a ‘Wall of Fame’, which I started with my own children when they were very young and would come home and do Christmas drawings and I would put them up on the wall each year. But I’ve got such a wall full now that three-quarters of it is from the foster children and it’s wonderful.”
Lynne encourages anyone who is interested in fostering to give it a go.
“Barnardos will call me and say they have one or two (or it could even be four) children and could they come and stay for one or two nights? I usually say yes, because if it’s an emergency (especially if late at night), children need to go somewhere quickly because their life is upside down as it is.
“When children arrive I open the door and say, ‘Welcome, come on in. Would you like a drink? Would you like something to eat?’
“If it’s really late at night sometimes I put the TV on for a moment with a cartoon to ease them into relaxing a little bit. If it’s through the day I get the games out and sit down and play a game with them or we do some cooking or take a walk around the garden—that’s usually a good thing as most kids love gardens.
“Some children can be quite withdrawn. Some don’t want to communicate with you and they just want to sit in the corner, which is very sad. It’s something you just have to work around.
“I simply let them know that they are important and that they can come and talk to me when they are ready.”
Lynne says being a foster carer is wonderful because the children appreciate the kindness and the love they are given.
“They may not have experienced anything like that before. And everyone needs to be loved, everyone needs to be told how special they are.”
Her advice for those that are considering becoming a foster carer?
“If anyone is interested in fostering or has ever thought about it, they could just get in touch with Barnardos and make enquiries.
Try it, and if you find it doesn’t suit, then that’s fine.
“You don’t have to be a full-time carer, you can do it part-time and you can just provide respite for very short periods of time—it could be overnight or it could be for another foster family who has to go somewhere and the children can’t go with them, so they’ll come to your home on respite.”
More information on becoming a foster carer
The children and young people who turn to Barnardos for help have been exposed to exceptionally difficult circumstances in their young lives—abuse, violence, poverty, drug and alcohol issues, mental illness, homelessness and disability. That is why they need you.
Barnardos Australia is currently looking for foster carers to look after children/young people aged between 0–18 years old. Foster carers must be at least 21 years old and can be single, married, with or without children, young or old. Carers receive ongoing training and 24/7 support, along with a generous non-taxable allowance and will be eligible for Centrelink entitlements.
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer contact Barnardos.
t: 1800 663 441