Carers foster life-long bond


Aaron Gilson, Flickr

Twenty-one years after being adopted as a baby, Jordan Miletic calls his foster carer “Mum”

Jordan Miletic was 10 months old when he was placed in a short-term arrangement with a foster carer. Twenty-one years later he now calls that foster carer “Mum” and still lives with her. His last name has been legally changed to hers to reflect the bond they have.

“It was meant to be short term, it’s 21 years later, and a fair few amount of grey hairs for Anna and I still live with her, she is Mum,” he says. “I took her last name because I didn’t want anything to do with my birth family. When I got the new birth certificate in the mail with her last name, I almost cried.”

This story is one that echoes the ones Marg Glover has from her 25 years as a foster carer. She’s developed such strong bonds with her kids that they’ll often call for a chat now as adults or greet her like a long-lost family member when she bumps into them. She’s taken her kids on trips across the globe to places like America, Europe and New Zealand. She has also supported them to represent their state in sports, and even representing Australia in the Paralympics.

“As far as we’re concerned if you’re taking these kids into your home, they need to be a part of the family,” she says. “If we are going on holiday, they are coming with us. You need to give them all the extras, the after-school sports, holidays. Even just making sure you show up to watch their concerts means so much to them.”

Foster carers are the foundation of the child safety network. Yet the latest Auditor-General report states that they are leaving at an alarming rate and agencies are failing to recruit people to take on these roles due to “the complexity of children’s behaviour, the cost of caring, and the increasing number of families with two working parents”.

In the past five years, the number of kids in Queensland needing out-of-home care has increased by 16.3 per cent, with just over 10,000 kids living in out-of-home care situations. At the same time, there has only been a 10 per cent increase in foster carers.

Lindsey Carrier is a team leader at IFYS, a Sunshine Coast organisation that supports foster carers and the kids in their care. She says the logistics of caring for a kid living in out-of-home care and holding down a fulltime job can be a nightmare, especially if the kids are high-needs. She says Queensland needs to take the same approach countries like the UK have and pay carers a liveable wage so their focus can be on the kids.

In Jordan Miletic’s eyes foster carers are heroes

‘We need to increase the (payment) rate, that’s what they’ve had to do in other countries and other states,” she says. “Carers need more support from youth workers, and we need the freedom to be more creative with our placements and the supports we can offer.

“We had one young boy who was still in primary school that was being moved from placement to placement because of behaviours, and eventually, he had to have 24/7 care from youth workers in a residential home. It was costly and not a good situation for the kid to be in, so we started asking who in this kids’ network cares about this kid deeply who would take him on? We knew who would be perfect – the carer who had him on weekends for respite. So we said if we help you financially, can you quit your job and take him on full-time? He said yes.”

Lindsey says they are finding a more significant number of kids needing care these days who are high-needs children. They require more support than ever, which can be a challenge for carers working full-time.

“I have a carer that has a young boy who is constantly getting suspended from school, which means that the carer is needing to leave work at a drop of a hat to go pick him up and take him home,” she says. “Workplaces are only so understanding.”

Lack of support is something Jordan has witnessed his foster mum Anna deal with while she cared for his high-needs older foster brother. He is one of the oldest survivors of an auto-immune disease called IPEX syndrome. People with IPEX syndrome rarely survive past infancy, and Jordan credits his brother’s survival to the dedication Anna has to caring for them.

“I’ve seen mum fight tooth and nail to get the support she needs for my brother; it shouldn’t be that hard,” he says. “If you’ve got people willing to dedicate their lives to helping kids, we should be showering them in all the support they need. We pay doctors high wages because they save lives, yet carers are changing lives working 24/7, and we don’t even give them minimum wage.”

The current base allowance rate for kids in care is between $251-$343 per week. This allowance is expected to cover all the child’s needs, including but not limited to medical, housing, clothing, educational, transport, pocket money, leisure activities and after-school activities.

For Jordan, the lack of support isn’t the only hurdle to overcome. He says the stigma attached to foster kids is also stopping people from taking them in.

“People think that foster kids are those kids you see hanging around the bus stops, dressed like an eshay/lad (gangster wannabe) and committing crimes, but that’s only a small amount – most kids are like me,” he says. “They just need someone to give them a chance and be there for them.”

Jordan says when people ask him his opinion on foster carers, he tells them that in his eyes they are heroes and he hopes more people think about doing it. “There are hard days, but every parent has hard days,” he says. “The positive impact you will make in that kid’s life will be the greatest gift you can ever give them.”