By Lucy Summers | Posted: Tuesday August 7, 2018
Congratulations to Heather, who has retired from her role as a caregiver for children being supported by Anglican Family Care.
Heather has been a caregiver for more than 20 years, ever since her son was five. She was interviewed for the role in September, 1995 after coming along to a seminar at Anglican Family Care about what caregiving involved.
At the time, she had two young children of her own and was a solo parent. “I was at home looking after my own chidren and I thought it was important for my kids to see that other children were having a tough time – it taught them a lot of compassion”. Heather’s own children, especially her daughter, liked the kids that came to stay.
When asked how many children she has cared for, Heather said, “I haven’t the faintest idea... there have been a lot. Most of the children stayed with me for a short while. Some weekends I was caring for three or four children at a time.”
Heather feels that what she enjoyed most about being a caregiver has been getting to know the kids and making sure they had a happy time. Her children also enjoyed having others around to play with. She said that sometimes there were challenging behaviours, but she would just ignore those and praise the good behaviours. She also worked hard with the children to develop good routines and to establish the same boundaries she expected of her own children.
When asked about some of the highlights of being a caregiver, Heather said they were when the children thanked her when they left. “I must have been doing something right because when they left, some of them wrote me a thank you letter.”
She has also been really pleased to catch-up with some of the children years later, and find out that they are doing well, or have their own children. “One day I was stopped by a young man who greeted me and told me who he was and showed me his baby. It is enough for them to want to stop and say hello to me. That’s what gets me. You know that they appreciate you.”
Heather would recommend caregiving to other people. She said you need to be patient and calm, even when you are being challenged. And it was important to be loving. She said this can be hard when a child doesn’t want you to love them and says, “You’re not my mother”. But Heather would reply, “This is my house and here I am the mother.”
The boundaries and routines were the same for all the children in the house, including Heather’s own. “My kids had to clean their teeth and go to bed at a certain time, so the visiting children did the same.”
In her retirement, Heather plans to spend more time with her grandchildren. “I will miss all the different kids but I have got to the stage where I have two grandchildren and I want to focus on them.”
WHAT IS CAREGIVING?
AFC offers respite caregiving to families as part of our services. This is where a child goes for a short stay with a caregiver on a regular basis – such as one weekend a month – to give parents a break if there are no other family supports. Emergency care is offered if a parent has to be absent at short notice, for example, if they have to go into hospital. Caregivers are offered training, support and a small board payment. If you are interested in being a caregiver, call 03 477 0801 or click here for more information.