Garry and Natalie* are often told that their foster children are blessed to be in their care. However, they see it differently.
“We are the ones who are blessed to have them in our home,” Garry said.
Garry is a proud foster carer with SSI's Multicultural Foster Care Service.
“Our lives have changed for the better since we started being foster carers, and there are so many blessings that come with the children.”
It was curiosity that led them to become carers. Their journey began when Natalie noticed that one of her regular customers in the shop where she worked no longer came in with her daughter. When Natalie asked after the child, the mother explained that the she was no longer able to care for her and that she was now in foster care.
“I had never heard of this situation before and I told Garry the story that evening at home,” Natalie said.
Garry and Natalie, who both identify as Muslim, wondered whether there were other children from Muslim backgrounds who found themselves in the same situation.
“When we researched and found out that this was the case, we were so surprised that there is often not enough extended family to step in and help in these situations, and we realised what a serious issue it is,” Natalie said.
Garry and Natalie agreed that they would start as short term carers to help a child in need and see if they could accommodate the arrangement.
Within a matter of months, however, they accepted two children who were siblings for long term care. That was soon followed by another two foster children.
They now care for four children between the ages of six and 16. The children are from various cultural backgrounds but Islam ties the family together.
“The first time we prayed together I had tears in my eyes,” Garry said.
“It’s so important to keep a child connected to their roots and identity.
“If one day they are restored to their own families I don’t want them to feel like there has been a gap in their upbringing – a break in the chain.”
One of the children is hoping to be dux of the school and another, who has undergone intensive long term medical intervention, is now able to run after many years of barely being able to walk.
“The children are blossoming and have very good values and beliefs, especially around charity and helping others in need,” Natalie said.
Garry and Natalie are two of the 80 foster carers with the Settlement Services International (SSI) Multicultural Foster Care Service (MFCS), celebrating Foster Care Week this week (September 13-19).
The MFCS specialises in placing foster children of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds with carers of the same background where possible.
SSI supports foster carers with initial and on-going training, a bilingual case worker if preferred, support groups, respite care, and a 24 hour on call phone support service. In situations where the carer is not from the same background as the child, a Cultural Placement Plan is developed.
For information about the SSI Multicultural Foster Care Service or details on how to become a foster carer:
*Real names have not been used