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Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
2012 NSW Mother of the Year
Caroline Fowles is one of those
women you can't help but ask, in fact
insist to know, how do you do it all? Not to
mention...be happy, polite, patient, funny,
incessantly humble and, well...normal? With
an impressive resumé as a mother of five
(with husband Craig, she cares for three
biological and two foster children), Caroline
is also a wife, part-time employee and
passionate community member who recently
spent 18 months with her family in Russia,
volunteering in orphanages.
On the day I met Caroline, the Newcastle
Mum was at home caring for two sick
children while her other children were
participating in an immersion experience
with a local Indigenous community. The
five-foot tall bundle of energy graciously
welcomed me into her home where, gracing
most walls, were photographs of a happy,
diverse and loving family Caroline is proud to
call her own.
Taking home the coveted Barnardos Mother
of the Year title is an honour for Caroline,
who humbly insists she's only one of the
thousands of amazing mothers who do an
equally amazing job every day. Despite being
a private person, Caroline realises that with
this title comes an opportunity to share her
passion and promote an issue very close to
her heart while she can. That issue is foster
care, also known as Out of Home Care.
"Foster care is the biggest joy," Caroline
exclaims with enthusiasm. "To have the
honour, the absolute privilege of caring for
another person's child is a gift, a rewarding
and satisfying blessing which benefits all
parties and I just want to encourage more
people to experience the joy themselves."
Caroline currently cares for two siblings,
aptly referred to by her family as 'the babies'.
State-wide, and particularly in the Hunter,
there's an urgent need for more foster
carers. Caroline says she is constantly
surprised by the attitude of many that it's
'someone else's issue' and the negative
associations sometimes given to foster care
as a result of sensationalised media reports
or dramatic misrepresentations on TV.
"Foster care is a gift! There's no denying it
can be a challenge, just like all parenting,
but I can honestly say I've never had
a negative day. The positives and the
relentless joy we experience as carers make
us realise we're the lucky ones; to be part of
the lives of two beautiful children whom we
can watch grow and learn."
Fostering was an innate knowing for Caroline,
who herself was adopted and could see
foster care's many benefits.
"If it weren't for my [adoptive] Mum and Dad,
where would I be?" Caroline asks. It's this
personal experience which also encourages
her to support the ideal of knowing the birth
parents promoted by the agency Caroline
fosters with, CatholicCare Hunter-Manning.
CatholicCare acknowledges that, where
possible, it is in children's best interests to
have a relationship with their birth parents.
I know what it's like, wanting to know your
parents, and it's deeply important to me
they know their history; we fully support that."
Caroline speaks positively about this and
the amazing support she's received from
CatholicCare Hunter-Manning. She says
CatholicCare is there 24/7 when you need
support, but also allows you the freedom to
parent. You don't have to be Catholic to care
with CatholicCare, and short and long-term
carefully matched placements are offered to
suit the individual, couple or family's current
circumstances, including ages and gender of
children already in the household.
"I encourage anyone even thinking about
it to make the call, go along to one of
the information sessions and just learn
about fostering, the process, pressures,
challenges...but most of all, the joys,"
Caroline said. "There's no pressure and if
you're not ready, and you don't realise it,
someone else will and let you know. There's
By EMMA BLACKFORD
Caroline enjoying a rare quiet moment at home. Photo courtesy of Emma Blackfor
no judging, so don't feel like once you're
through the door, you can't back out. At the
end of the day, CatholicCare requires ready,
fully trained carers, so the child in care can
have the best possible outcome.
"It's just one of those things I constantly
ask myself, why don't more people do it?
There's no secret. Everyone has stresses,
deadlines and competing priorities but
most of us also have hearts and homes.
One of CatholicCare's mottoes rings true
to me, if you have room in your heart and
home, could you be a foster carer for a
child in need? I'd love it if my role as NSW
Mother of the Year inspired even one more
individual to read this and ask that question.
It will be a life-changing moment, not just
for the foster carers, but for a child too."
For all foster care enquiries, please
P CatholicCare 4923 0660.
The Newcastle Herald 3 April 2012
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