By Melissa Walsh
Julie Campbell has been a foster carer for 20 years and has helped improve the lives of more than 50 children, some of whom still call her “mum”. The Rye woman was introduced to the concept of fostering children when she was just 13 years of age and it was something she never forgot.
“Good family friends fostered kids and I used to help them all the time. I knew it was something I wanted to do but decided to wait until my own children got older,” she said. “I actually didn’t know how to become a foster carer until I saw an ad for a foster carer wanted for twins in the paper. It said they were difficult kids and I thought maybe I should try it. My youngest child was 17 by then so I felt it was the right time for us.”
Since then Julie has fostered 50 children from nine month old babies to teenagers, and now is a foster carer for OzChild.
“Most of our kids have been teens or pre-teens but I have had some younger children,” said Julie who prefers having older kids. ”I like teenagers because there is a bigger need as a lot of people don’t want them. I like teaching them life skills. Straight away you can see they’re learning from you,” she said. “My first foster child was one of the twins who didn’t have any life skills. He stayed with us for two years and when he left he would say to his brother ‘don’t buy that, Julie says this is better’ which was lovely.”
With the number of kids needing foster care on the rise each year, there is a growing need for foster carers Australia wide and on the Mornington Peninsula.
For people like Julie Campbell, the rewards are priceless, and it has only made her family stronger and bigger.
“Some of the foster children you may never see again like the younger ones who often go home or to another family from another area. It is sad for us but they need to be closer to their family so we are happy when they move on,” said Julie. “We also have quite a few children that have grown up with us and have stayed in our family. The twins still see me and they are about 29 now. I am also a foster nana to two little children.”
The positive stories far outweigh the sad as Julie talks of one of her longest term foster children and the joy he brought to their lives.
“One of my longest term foster children was 15 when he came to us many years ago. He ran away all the time and didn’t want to be here. After his family gave us their blessing he was happy to stay with us and became more stable. He lived with us until he was 18 and then moved away to play footy. He got a job and had a baby and calls me mum whenever we talk,” said Julie.
The number of children in out-of-home care in Australia is rapidly rising with 46,500 reported in 2015-16, and the Mornington Peninsula is one of the highest areas across the state. In Victoria there has been a 57 per cent increase in the number of children entering into out-of-home care between 2011-2016, and OzChild is in need of more foster carers.
OzChild’s Chief Executive Officer, Lisa Griffiths said becoming a foster carer is a rewarding decision.
“Becoming a foster carer is a wonderful thing and can provide many personal rewards as you are able to make a difference in the life of a child,” said Ms Griffiths. “Anyone can be a foster carer if you want to open your heart and your home to a child that needs support. You won’t be alone. OzChild will journey with you every step of the way. All children need a positive childhood and foster care can be your chance to ensure that children get there and continue to be cared for in a safe and loving home. The work our carers do for the children, young people and families in their care is amazing. Without them they would not have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Prospective carers are encouraged to attend an information session where they have an opportunity to meet with current foster carers to get an idea of how foster care works.
OzChild’s training program ensures prospective carers are confident to support the foster children in their care. Foster carers need to be over the age of 21, and OzChild welcomes applications from individuals, and families with or without children and supports applicants from cultural, religious and sexually diverse backgrounds.
“We need at least 300 additional careers across Victoria and demand keeps rising with a 20 per cent increase of careers required annually. It can be respite care, short-term care, long-term or emergency,” said Ms Griffiths.
Call OzChild on 1800 954 550 to talk to the recruitment team or you can register your interest at ozchild.org.au/foster-care.