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3 years into Foster Care… Perspective is everything

It’s not easy…

I’m on a road trip for 12 days by myself… for a much needed break… as I have so much time up at work I needed to burn off some of that and rekindle my internal flame.

I often get questioned as to why I am in this job… why I work in a broken system? I needed to reflect on that as I arrive in Sydney ready to have some one on one sessions with people that are looking for insights into their own challenges… why am I working in and Agency when I could be doing private work (and getting paid more)?

It has taken me 3 years to bring my life back into balance after jumping into this failure of a foster care system… it fails children who need protection… it fails carers who need skills and support, it fails caseworkers who have limited knowledge and resources and it fails families who have their children removed when what they needed was working interventions. The need is big in foster care… and initially it looked like I should run fast… and I was drowning for a couple of years. However, I did my own constellation work with a friend/fellow facilitator (Catherine McMahon) which made me realise that I should not look back as the Foster care system was in transition and that I could find my place in the new Permanency Support Program which prioritises:

  • Early intervention for families – keeping kids with a parent when there is possibility of intervention and support wrapped around both or one parent
  • Finding and expanding the village around children/isolated parents so that if the child/ren couldn’t go home they could still live with family who loved them and wanted to support them
  • When either of those options are not available or don’t work, then looking for the right fit with a foster family that was rigorously assessed as appropriate, trained and committed to ongoing learning and who would be supporting the child/ren to have healthy family contact and visitations.
  • Looking for foster carers who wanted to provide a permanent home through adoption or guardianship or who could provide support to carers/parents by providing short or long breaks while we worked on getting things back on track.
  • Therapeutic intervention and skills building for everyone who works with children and for the children themselves. Understanding trauma is critical and knowing how to respond to behaviours in a way that support children to feel safe and teach them that adults can be safe to turn to, safe to love and that they can be attached to these adults and learn and heal.

So I am now feeling I am able to contribute because I work with some amazing people and support carers to understand what is happening and how their response to behaviours can calm the storm or worse, isolate that child further. Teaching them skills to build connection and understand the developmental and attachment milestones as we celebrate these along the way. It takes my parenting skills and all of my knowledge and helps me to apply it just where it is most desperately needed.

Finding and assessing potential carers from the beginning of the process and teaching them all the way through until approval stage. Setting them up for success.

I feel like I’m in the zone when I do this work.

But I have missed my one on one time with my private clientele and running workshops.

So I have modified my hours… stepped back and created space and here I am in Sydney doing some one on one Family & Systemic Constellations for clients who I’ve not met… but who have booked in because of being referred by an other therapist. I feel privileged that they want to work with me and excited to be able to work with them. Then I head down to Bodalla and support another facilitator to run a workshop.

It’s so nice to be able to step into that magical space that constellation work brings. The ability to look at a challenge from the outside with the client… to see it from different views… to understand the cause of the challenge and make changes is a phenomenon that I love experiencing. I love walking beside the client through that experience and watching as the ‘ah ha’ moments drop… when the experience shifts them visibly and emotionally… that’s when I know the magic has happened. I had my first session yesterday with a young 24 year old woman… she said her mind was blown… she had never seen the issue from a different perspective… she had an internal story to what was happening and expanding on that and on what the system was showing was immediately life changing for her… and that will ripple out into her system.

I love my work…

And I love working in the social justice arena too… making a difference with people and children who have been removed from their family/parents/siblings and extended village.

It takes a village to raise a child… sometimes that village needs to be engaged with… to be looked at with compassion… with knowledge that everyone is doing the best the can do with the resources they have.

It is an honour to be working in both spaces…

And it’s an honor to be a foster carer myself. I get to work with a young person and learn and grow as I do so. Creating perspective on my journey… looking at each situation with him… in my work… with my clients… that is what makes my heart sing.

Perspective is everything