When Malcolm and Michelle decided to become foster carers, it was because they love being around children. Michelle had previously worked in childcare, and Malcolm had coached the local footy team for over 25 years. To them it just made sense. “We’re very kid oriented. We do it for one reason only and that’s because we love the kids and we want to give them a chance,” says Malcolm. The fact they already had four children of their own didn’t deter them from taking on foster kids. In fact, it just made them more committed to the decision.
They currently foster four children, and three of them are siblings. “At the start we did have to define boundaries a little bit so it didn’t impact too much on our own kids. But we run this household very fairly,” says Malcolm. “All the kids are treated the same and not excluded from anything.” Malcolm and Michelle’s four children understand how lucky they are to live in a family that extends love and kindness to others, and Malcolm sees his children as very “well adjusted.”
They are about to take the seven children who live with them on a road trip holiday to Queensland, because for Malcolm and Michelle, “our life has always been our children. We don’t go to a party without them. And the foster children now do what we do too because they’re very special to us.” Malcolm admits that blending their own children with four extras does mean their lives are very busy. “Of course our lives would be freer if we didn’t foster, but that’s what we choose to do. We choose to foster children.”
Many of us take for granted the idea of a child having a “regular” life, one where they are fed and loved and looked after. Malcolm thinks the critical thing that many foster kids are missing out on is a sense of this. And that’s what he wants to give back. He is determined to offer the children who stay with them exposure to a regular household and a regular childhood, where they go to school, play sport, eat dinner together, go on holidays together and are cared for. “By fostering, you are taking in children who wouldn’t be given a chance and you’re giving them one. You’re showing them what regular is,” says Malcolm.
And it couldn’t get much more regular than living in someone else’s family, and experiencing all the usual everyday things a family does together. Malcolm and Michelle’s family is a particularly close one, perhaps because they’ve extended their home and their lives to looking after others. Their eldest son works in the family business, and his infant daughter is a big part of their lives. Family is the most important thing to Malcome and Michelle. And for the foster children who come and live with them, experiencing that is very nurturing.
In the three years that the fostered siblings have lived with them, Michelle has been struck with how changed the children are. “You see massive changes in their behavior, in the way they are day to day, in the things they do and in their attitude towards life,” she says. Malcolm adds, “my idea of foster care is that you give that child a life until that time his or her parents can look after them.”
With a household that’s busy and full of children and love, the only thing Malcolm wishes for now is the ability to foster even more kids. “We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love having kids here. And if we could have more then we would.”