Vin Nihill and his wife Sue have fostered children for the past 35 years.
More foster carers are desperately needed to care for Ballarat children who cannot stay with their own families, but some are reluctant to take on the demanding role because of potential pitfalls they might face.
Mr Nihill wants to help put their fears to rest and answer the tough questions about caring for a child.
“There are a few moments that make you stop and think ‘why am I doing this’, but you remember what they’ve been through and you just get on with it,” he said.
The possibility of violent and upset behaviour, conflict with parents, inappropriate behaviour and many other eventualities can be a turn-off for those thinking about taking on the job, but agencies have found potential carers who can ask the hard questions of those already providing foster care have their fears allayed.
“Foster carers are vital in our community,” said Child and Family Services Ballarat chief executive Allan Joy.
“They provide 24-hour care, seven days a week, stepping in to take care of children who live apart from their parents as a result of abuse or neglect in the birth home. It’s a difficult as well as incredibly rewarding job.”
Mr Nihill is part of a new CAFS campaign to recruit more foster carers, with a series of ads to air on television from next week. There are more than 70 children around Ballarat in foster care with CAFS and more on the waiting list.
The campaign explores key elements of foster care – what happens on a child’s first night in a foster care home, what a carer would say to themselves if they could go back to when they decided to become a carer, and the attachments that foster children have made.
“We’ve got a routine when new kids arrive in our home,” Mr Nihill said. “We get them in and we just let them settle. They get a warm shower and a full tummy. Many of these kids are world-weary and all they really need is their own warm bed.”
The Nihills chose to largely focus on long-term care and have a 9-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl in their care, but foster care can range from overnight emergency care and respite of as little as a day or weekend a month through to long-term care.
“Before people have a child in their care they have been through so much training, shared lots of information and had lots of opportunities to ask any questions and have conversations about what will this actually be like,” said CAFS program manager of placement and support Melissa Riddiford.