*Story originally featured on Fostering Connections. Julie is currently a staff member in the Home-Based Care team at Brophy.
Julie was 15 years old when her parents became foster carers providing care to more than 100 children and young people in the Warrnambool area. This upbringing Julie says was a life-changing experience and one that she is incredibly grateful for. It has also led her to a career working in out of home care providing support for children and families across Victoria.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name is Julie and I grew up in Warrnambool. I am one of five siblings, and my parents became foster carers 30 years ago when I was a teenager.
Two of the children who came into our care ended up staying on a permanent basis, so I also have two bonus sisters.
I currently work with Brophy Family and Youth Services in kinship care and prior to that, I worked in foster care for 15 years. This area of work was always something I wanted to do as a result of my parent’s fostering and I knew I wanted to be involved in making the experience for foster carers the best it could be.
How did fostering impact you as a person?
It’s been a very positive experience for my siblings and I and has made us more compassionate and considerate. We’ve all gone into caring professions and my sister also became a foster carer. It’s helped us become aware of our own privilege and appreciate that our parents were always in a position to care for us.
We all recognise our responsibility to the greater community, not just to ourselves. If you see somewhere you can help, why not help?
What are some of your favourite memories?
As an adult, I still reflect on the wonderful memories from the times children came to stay with us. One day, a young girl who had been in the care of my parents recognised me in town. She told me how welcome my parents had made her feel and she recalled how our front door and our fridge were always open. My parents still have children they’ve cared for coming to visit as adults to let them know they have turned out okay.
My parents also made sure the children in their care had a strong connection with their birth family and we often had their birth families over for Christmas and other celebrations.
What have been some of the more challenging times?
I am sure there were some days that weren’t so great, but I only recall the good memories. It can be sad to hear about some of the difficult things children in care have been through or not to be sure where they would end up after leaving, but I am able to look back on all the positive times we had with them.
Because I was older than most of the children who came to stay, we never had any jealousy. We had lots of teenagers in the house who were able to give attention to some of the younger kids. Our case workers were very mindful of placement matching and making sure children that came into our home would also be a good match for us as well.
What would you say to people thinking about becoming foster carers?
If you think you can give it a go, give it a go. My parents initially started providing respite care and never intended to foster for so many years or have children come into their care permanently. It was just something they thought they would do for a little while, but they ended up doing it for 30 years because it was so rewarding.
I have two wonderful bonus sisters and lots of little nieces and nephews that I wouldn’t have had if my parents had not become foster carers.