When Elly was born, her grandparents stepped up to give her the best start in life. Thirty-seven years later, their principles and values are guiding Elly as she raises her four daughters and a foster child.
“My mum was only 16 when she had me so I lived with my grandparents for probably the first nine or ten years of my life,’’ says Elly, who joined Centacare’s Specialist Family Preservation Foster Care (SFPFC) program in February.
“My grandpa was in the army so he was a bit strict and about routine, and a lot about respect.
“I definitely feel that tough love was a really important love to have because it really did make me respect others and be non-judgemental and not look at a problem – but maybe why the problem is there – and the solution, instead of focusing so much on the negative.’’
A chance meeting with fellow Centacare foster carers Lyn and Roy inspired Elly and her husband Adam to join the SFPFC program.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, even as a young child. One of my friends was adopted and I always said `I’m going to do that when I get older’ not really understanding what it was,’’ Elly says.
“But it was something I didn’t think that I could do now. I thought it was something I’d have to do when I was older, when the kids had grown up.’’
There’s no greater love than a parent’s love for a child
– Elly, specialist foster carer
With five children under one roof, Elly says the house is now a lot louder but that her family is much closer: “He’s certainly brought so much joy. He’s a centre point for us to focus on and do things together for. I thought I had a connected family. It’s just been wonderful and brought us together as a family so much more than before.’’
Through SFPFC, children on a reunification plan with their birth family are placed in households for up to 18 months while they are unable to live at home.
“For me working with the birth parents is really important,’’ Elly says.
“This program isn’t just working with the child, it’s working with the whole family. There’s no greater love than a parent’s love for a child, so if we can get that child back home and they are able to give that child that love, there’s no better outcome than that.
“To look at this little, innocent person and to think of everything he’s gone through, and to think that we can make a difference in his life – even if it’s a small difference – or in his parents’ life to help them be parents, that is the greatest gift anyone could give us.’’
Seeing the boy’s attachment with his mother grow is a highlight.
“Building that attachment is one of the most important things you can teach a child but it’s giving them the skills to be able to do it again and again so they know they can be safe and have a connection with people.
“I’m hoping he will feel safe enough to build those relationships with people so he can have that connection, and love, and inner strength.’’
Elly is grateful for the training and support of Centacare’s SFPFC team, which enabled her to quickly settle into her new role as a foster carer.
So, will she do it again?
“Definitely, you can’t stop me! We are super happy it’s going to end with him hopefully going home.
“Obviously (there’ll be) a few tugs on the heart because we have spent so much time with him but this is the best result you could ask for.
“We are really excited about what the future holds and what the next child will bring to us.’’