The only tears shed during Kate Johnston’s time as a foster carer is when one of her “children” leave to live with their forever family.
The retired Earlwood Catholic primary school teacher had been considering becoming a foster carer for a few years but believes her final decision was simply providence.
She read about the need for foster carers in her church bulletin and undeterred by the fact she was in her 60s, single and had never had children of her own, attended a Family Spirit information session and took a leap of faith.
She believes her 38-year teaching career provided her with many of the skills and strategies to be able to help a child work through emotional issues and manage challenging behaviours.
So much so, Kate is currently fostering a 14-year-old teenage boy – the hardest demographic to house.
Last month, 49 per cent of children requiring foster care were in the 11-15 age bracket as many believe they are too difficult to look after.
Kate said she believes people are simply frightened of taking in teenage boys but she has nothing but praise for her newest “family member”.
“I do think people are just scared of taking in teenage boys in particular as they feel they could be violent and have behavioural issues but honestly I couldn’t have asked for a nicer young man,” she said.
“When he arrived he told me his mum had taught him to always be nice and in that regard he does what he is told.
“To think he has been removed from his own family through absolutely no fault of his own and dealt with everything that’s been done to him and still be such a lovely young man is remarkable.
“I consider the key to being able to help children, whether in foster care, a family or the classroom, is to be flexible”
“I consider the key to being able to help children, whether in foster care, a family or the classroom, is to be flexible.
“Being able to think creatively in quickly developing reward systems has great merit, I used many different reward systems as a teacher and that inevitably helped as a first time emergency carer.
“I guess quite simply I live by Saint Mary MacKillop’s mantra ‘never see a need without doing something about it’ so I couldn’t sit back knowing there were so many children looking for somewhere they would be cared for without doing something to help.”
Every day in NSW there are hundreds of children from newborns and upwards desperate for somewhere to call home, they can spend weeks, months, even years looking for a family while some never actually find one.
And sadly the older the children, the harder they are to place. Not because of their background or the trauma they have experienced but purely because of their age.
With 55 foster care agencies in NSW, Family Spirit’s point of difference is its focus on Catholic social teachings and Jesus’ rebuke to the Disciples “let the little children come to me and do not stop them for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these”.
For Kate, the rewards of providing a home for a young person in desperate need are enormous.
“To take in a child who is anxious, fearful, even terrified, and see them blossom as they are meant to, is reward in itself,” she said.
“Seeing them become confident and assured that they are actually worth something in this world is so satisfying, not to mention the great company they provide.
“I guess my advice to anyone in a position to become foster carers, be open in heart and mind, listen to what God is asking of you and act in accordance with your heart and faith.”