Thursday, March 31, 2011

Extract from our Facebook fan page

Extract from Facebook page 
I get sooo pissed off when I hear about kids moving placements and turning up to their new family with hardly anything!!! Dear Carer, what were you spending the money on? Where are their clothes!!!???

    • Bryce -- i totally agree it is discusting behaviour | 

    • Emma --That's terrible Des :( So sad that some people do it for the money - the genuine people know the money is barely enough to support the child!

    • Kim --Its very sad.. I had the same problem when i was doing emergency care.. And Daycare.. It made Me so cranky.. Sometimes id sit there and cry..

    • Melissa --My neighbour is a temporary carer, she is one of the few who will buy the children what they need and send it off with them. She had 3 little girls come in once and all they had was a tiny suitcase of clothing between them. One of the girls was the same size as my daughter so my daughter ran over and gave her some stuff. But your right it is unfair and these children need everything. Why are they not being supplied with it when carers get reimbursed and money for the things they spend on these kids.

    • Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids I know right?! If you have a child for 3 months or even 1 month and they move placements, they should have a least a bag of clothes that fit them as well as other bits and pieces. wtf?

    • Jane Grech-- Its disgusting isnt it! Maybe people should be paid in vouchers but then, there isnt a store that just sells reasonably priced kids clothing and supplies and nothing else!

    • Paula --
      Why would you not send their belongings. I have had my little darling treasure boy since he was 5 months old. Now 20 months. I don't get an allowance but when that horrible day comes when he goes away I will send everything with him. I will... be heartbroken. His first pair of shoes, his first hair cut. They all belong to him not me. I have just been blessed with a gorgeous child that I will forever treasure. Money shouldn't be the issue. You foster because you want to share your love and you are passionate about children. Money shouldn't be the reason you do it! Unfortunately people do it for that reason! 

    • Jenny-- i have to send kids dvds to tasmania for my friend who has 5 children in her care

    • Sandra -- they cld state what the vouchers are for. i know that you cannot get cigarettes on vouchers from vinnies etc so they cld do a similar thing for these kiddies surely

    • Melina -- Yes and stop keeping items given for the child. they are the childs not yours or your childrens

    • Yasmin --lol i had this issue a few days ago 2 kids been in the system for 7 months and have just come to me with a plastic shopping bag of clothes each and a pair of thongs disgusting is all i can say

    • Yasmin --on the bright side shopping spree !:)

    • Danielle --
      It pisses me off. It happens pretty regularly and it's always second hand clothes they come with so the carers get out of it as cheap as possible it's just so wrong. I have just recently had two kids move into permanent care that I had for ...12 months they needed a car and a station wagon to take the two kids and all the stuff I had bought them to their new placement. I have 4 of my own kids and their is enough toys here for them to play with but I always will buy the kids I have somethings of their own whether I have them for 2 days, 2 months or 2 years.
      Sorry to rant but this is one thing that gets my blood boiling.
      See more

    • Sandra -- Grrrrrrrrr when we start fostering that will NOT be happening with any of our kids! Even if I get most of their clothing second hand (most of MY kids wear second hand clothing) they'll still be taking it with them! It's THEIRS not the carer's! Makes you wonder what they were wearing during placement! How awful to be shipped off with only the clothes on your back :-(

    • Jane --The positive from this discussion is that it highlights there are some wonderful carers armong YOU, doing it for all the right reasons. Be encouraged by each other, and by those of us who are inspired by your passion, your generosity and love for these children requiring love and care so desperately. Keep up the excellent work, and don't let the bastards get you down.

    • Sarah -- Unfortunately we had to move our last child on to more experienced carers, he had a lot of stuff and EVERYTHING when with him, after all they were his. However this was not appreciated at the other end and we were told he was spoilt. He certainly didnt have a lot of toys, there was a volume of clothes but these had been gifts etc. As previously said this is their belongings, something familiar to them, of course it goes with them.

    • Michelle --As a carer i'm horrified that this happens. We have accepted placements that come from other carer's @ some of these children have come with nothing. i don't understand how care's can do that. We always send any clothing @ toys we have brought for the child, weather they have been with us for 2 years or 2 weeks. It is hard enough for a lot of these children moving around a lot, let alone not having anything they can call their own.

    • Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids It's just ridiculous! I'm going to post this comment thread in my blog, but I'll leave out your last names (no profile pix either don't worry), I think more people should know that this happens

Monday, March 21, 2011

What do you do when a child turns up at your place?

People have asked me, "What do you do with a child that has just been dropped off at your place for care?"
So I thought I'd share some of the things we usually do. Of course, please keep in mind that this is a general overview and we change things according to how many kids we take and their personalities and ages etc.

It often starts like this -
4.20pm ~ring, ring~ I answer and this is how it goes, "Hi Des, this is such and such from Families Plus, how are you? (general chit chat for a min or so, and then this - ), What's your capacity to take a placement of a (age, gender, number of ), child?"
Then I say, "Why are they in care? How long have they been in care? Why are they moving placement? How many times have they been in care? How long will the placement be? When does the placement start? (usually asap), Plus a whole heap of other questions to which the worker either answers as honestly as she can or says she'll find out. And then I always ask, (because it's a small town), would I know the family?"
Once I've got all this info I let the worker know that I'll call my partner Bruce and get back to them.  Bruce is usually flat out at work so we have a bit of a conversation and a think about how we can handle a placement right now, consider the things going on in our lives and make a decision, yes or no.

So, let's say we decide yes!
I call the agency back, let them know and then I make sure I have a backpack for the child and run to Coles to get some child friendly food, (because unlike popular belief, some foster carers don't have a neverending supply of lunch snacks, poppers and tempting desserts always on hand). I bolt home, make sure the child's room is ready with fresh sheets and the backpack and toiletries on the bed along with a teddy and their new torch.

It's now 5.10pm.

About now I realise I haven't cleared the dining table off for dinner, (because my partner and I eat in front of the tv when we don't have kids and use the table as a dumping ground for 'stuff' lol), so I do that. I tell the dogs and the cats that we are getting a visitor and have a handful of treats ready to keep our AmStaff calm. She adores kids, but it can be really overwhelming for a little person to see a big dog all excited.


Bruce is home by now and we talk about what to expect. We make dinner and wait.


A car pulls up in the driveway. The dogs go nuts and I give them treats and shut them in my office or on the patio.
Out of the car jumps a little person with a bag full of Maccas, (thanks for that dear social worker or whoever you are). We are introduced, my cat Capt. Jack rubs up against the little person, which usually breaks the ice.

The Capt. and Bruce


The social worker, or random drop off person leaves, and we are left to work stuff out.
If there are bags, Bruce and I show the LP to their new room and help them unpack, (the cat likes this part also). By this time the dogs are crying and I tell the LP what to expect. I go and get the little dog first and introduce them. Then I get the big dog and put her in a sit/stay while the LP has a pat, then I send her off to her mat while we finish unpacking.
Of course, the whole time we are chatting and talking about which draws to put things in and 'Oh, that's a cool shirt!, or 'Can I wash some clothes for you?"  We look through the backpack and then we say, 'We'll be just in the kitchen making dinner, you can come out when you are ready'.

Mr. Woofy
Kairo, (or Rosie as we call her), looks scary huh?
Milo, terrified of little people for some reason and hides the whole time, lol!

I like to give the LP some time alone, but where they can hear us, to process.  Usually the animals go and get the LP and we all have something to eat. Then because it's getting late, bath time and quite time before bed. We show the LP how to get to the toilet, we practise with the lights off and use the torch and we show them how to get to our bedroom and knock on the door really loudly!

I always to the first bedtime routine, unless we specifically have information that a male should do it. I have this great set of books called, 'I feel loved', 'I feel sad', 'I feel jealous' etc. There are 7 or 8 of them.  We go through the titles and the child can choose a couple for me to read. Yes, even if they are 11 years old I use the same set of books.

We had one LP who chose the book, 'I feel angry', for the first three nights, on the fourth he chose, 'I feel loved' . . .  the next day he was reunified with his family.

I've made a quick vid of the story, it's not great filming and there are no special guest star voice overs.. just me! I am camerman, crew, and narrator... the editor had the day off :o)

8 - 8.30pm sometimes later depending on how hyped up the LP is.

I ask if the LP wants a light left on, a lamp left on or the door open etc. and I check on them every 5 or 10 mins till I go to bed.

We don't really sleep that well on the first night.

6.30am or earlier

Bruce is first up in the morning and he does breakfast and the teethbrushing and getting dressed for school or day care or whatever. (I am not a morning person at all! lol).

At some point before school, I ask the LP if they'd like to go to Kmart after school to buy some new pjs, (or whatever I can see they don't have or may soon need replacing). I NEVER throw anything out that the child brings with them. These things are their only belongings and they BELONG to them, not us.  Buying new things is a nice bonding experience for both of us and I make sure they know that they now own these things, because they usually ask anyway :o(

8am ish

I walk with the LP into school, visit the office to let them know I'm caring for such and such. The school is usually the last to know. Then I pop over and visit the teacher and let them know and encourage them strongly not to expect too much homework or even quality school work until things are settling down again. Sometimes the teachers take my advice, and sometimes they don't.

9am ish

I go home for a nap LOL! I wish!  These days I have to go to work, but last year I was able to take a breath and organise a menu and lunches etc. and chase up my agency for all the info they have, if the DOCS worker hasn't called me by midday I call them and insist that I get the 'authority to care' forms by that afternoon.

I must say, that the agency I'm with is awesome!! Very helpful, friendly and supportive and I'm so glad we joined with them.  Usually we get a call from our support worker or sometimes a visit the same night the LP comes to stay (yes, out of hours... imagine that!) or the next day.

If you have any questions or comments or you are a carer and do things a little differently, please leave a comment below.

Again, this is a very general outline.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review.. Twilight

Stephenie fans! What makes her so special to you? – “…Seriously, her writing is just so awesome. The books are like drugs!...”

Does anyone else find it disturbing that an official fan site openly compares literaure to drugs?

I had not heard about Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series till 2008, when I read an article in Time Magazine (,9171,1734838-2,00.html ). I am an avid Harry Potter reader and J. K Rowling admirer, so the title of the article caught my notice. Having read through the article I was still not much interested, though my then teenage daughter had her fantasy caught.

She borrowed the book from a friend and raced through it, immediately developing her love hate relationship with it. I was intrigued by her ravings and her determination to lay her hands on the rest of the books. I read the first 100 or so pages of Twilight, and simply could not read through the rest I was so revolted.

All of Stephenie Meyers books became sensational in their fan following. Movies were made. The media was alight with senseless stories of screaming fans wanting to be bitten by Robert Pattinson who starred as the lead vampire in the stories. I felt vaguely disturbed when I heard that mothers of teenagers, women in their 30s and 40s and even 50s were reportedly “getting hooked on to” the books. There was  something very wrong about the scenario, but I did not take more than a passing notice of all this.
When I started writing for these pages, and was asked to review books, I decided to go back and read the series. I thought I would give it another chance, since the popularity does not seem to have waned. I read Twilight and this writing will refer to only this book, as I do not want to read the whole series.

Let me begin by referring to a book that has already dealt with this phenomenon of young women going berserk about unrealistic novels.
It is part of received wisdom that Northanger Abbey is a satire on Gothic tales of horror. … M. H. Abrams, in A Glossary of Literary Terms (1999 ed.) under 'Gothic Novel' remarks that Jane Austen 'made good humoured fun of the more decorous instances of the Gothic vogue in Northanger Abbey'. (Read more:
Published nearly two hundred years ago,  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is the story of Catherine Morland, and ordinary young girl of 17, who has had neither wisdom, nor the benefit of formal education. She has built up an idea of the world through her vast reading of the many Gothic Novels that were popular during Jane Austen’s time. She has had a strict moral upbringing, and a very practical minded mother, who has so many children that she has not been much able to attend to each of them individually. Left to formulate her own view of the world, Catherine has formed the habit of relating all she sees to the unnatural Gothic world between the covers of her favourite novels. She is too unassuming to hold forth her own opinions, or even to formulate them independently. It is a clever story of a girl who learns to form her own opinions from observation, who learns through the embarrassment of experience that life is not lived within the pages of the popular romantic novels she is so fond of. She even learns to reach conclusions of her own, make her own decisions and become her own woman. Edward Tilney (supposed to be Jane Austen’s voice in the novel), who becomes her husband, makes the distinction between reading a novel and believing it literally, and in reading it and extracting such truths from it as enriches one’s life. He makes Catherine aware of the difference of reading blindly, and reading with discernment.
Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...Image via Wikipedia

Jane Austen was in her early twenties when she wrote Northanger Abbey. She later reworked on it before her death, and it was published posthumously. Jane Austen was mostly home schooled or schooled by family members, and spent a year at a formal school. She grew up in an age where women’s rights were still a novel idea and possibly read Mary Wollstonecraft’s works on feminine liberation and equality. Though she never refers to them in he works, her own notions, and that of her characters reflect an understanding of, and impatience with the female destiny in her day. She died when she was 41, and packed her life with wisdom, wit, intelligence and a contribution to literature, that is relevant and deserves attention even today. (Read More:

Twilight, on the other hand seems to be a celebration of unthinking romance, with emphasison unthinking. The author, Stephenie Meyer, with a degree from Brigham Young University, and all the independence, freedom, choices, and equality enjoyed by women in the 21st century, Wirtes a book that in a standard Australian school would get pulled up on each page because of grammatical errors and poor writing skills. She creates a heroine who though “independent” and self sufficient enough to take over and run her mother’s household and life, and her father’s household when she lives with either of them, falls apart when the stunningly handsome, impossibly strong and, may I say, completely weird Edward does not come to school one day. Bella, an impossibly awkward girl, who cannot even drive in a straight line, unless she is very careful, looks down upon her hapless parents, who are cardboard cut outs of real humans, thinks of all her schoolmates as small town non- wonders, is inexplicably bedazzled by an impossibly beautiful face. Virtually at first sight. Once she does admit her feelings for Edward, she thinks of him as a “god”, and wonders about what he would have been as a “young god”. In the end I was left wondering whether anyone in the book, and even Stephenie Meyer really understands what love is all about. There seems to be no depth to the feeling that love brings. In the story “love conquers all”, but the form of love that is described seems more like an addict’s dependence on drugs.

Yes, the word “impossibly” occurs  many times in the previous paragraph. The characters are truly impossible.

Let us look at the characteristics that make Edward a hero: He is inhumanly strong, incredibly handsome, with  a sculpted body, has a “mellifluous” voice, can move like lightning, has a grace that is naturally lacking in all the other true 17 year olds around him. He has all these qualities because he is a vampire and lusting after Bella’s blood. He falls in love with her because he is attracted to the smell of her blood. He likens his need for her as that of an alcoholic to cognac, or a drug addict to heroin. Of course let us not forget that he is 118 years old, and presumably has had a couple of lifetimes experiences. Bella finds it attractive that he lusts after her blood and is constantly aching to drink her blood and kill her.

Once Edward and Bella declare their love for each other, they stay together ALL the time. When she sleeps, he sits in a corner and watches her. The only time they separate is when Bella needs her “Human minutes”  (read bathroom and shower breaks). They kiss and canoodle continuously, but do not have sex for reasons that are only hinted at, and when Bella, in a surprisingly coy manner asks about it, she is told in no uncertain terms that it was not on the cards. Is this an implicit message of no sex before marriage stemming from Ms Meyer’s religious background? But wait, Ms Meyer does not want to send any messages. She just writes for herself. “I never write messages. I always write things that entertain me, and one of the things that I find really enjoyable to explore is the idea of love.”

(Read more:,9171,1834663,00.html#ixzz1GcJhGbuO)

. “I didn't write these books specifically for the young-adult audience. I wrote them for me. I don't know why they span the ages so well, but I find it comforting that a lot of thirtysomethings with kids, like myself, respond to them as well--so I know that it's not just that I'm a 15-year-old on the inside!” Really? Real life15 year olds in the 21st century behave like Bella with their real life boyfriends? Wow! If Stephenie is to be believed, so do the thirty somethings! Do they really like to be petted and cosseted and taken care of continuously and do they really want to be entwined around their new found loves 24 hours a day? Sorry, except for when they need to wash!

I wonder that millions of readers and (gasp!) their mothers have been reading these books and swooning over it. The small sample of readers I have spoken to, seem either to hate it, and spent a long time just getting angry over the book, or to love it: a book shop owner, recommended it saying, “it is like those age old romances like Jane Austen and all, nothing really happens, but there is this underlying tension, so there is no, you know, .. all of that…” No, Madam Bookshop Owner. It is not like Jane Austen. And no, I do not agree that “Nothing happens” in Jane Austen’s books. Though I know that is not what you were saying.

I plead with all of those who have read and gone maniacal about the Twilight saga, book and films, to turn back and read those novels written by women in a bygone era. Please read the books that have survived the centuries and are now groaned over as school texts. Perhaps a good place to start will be “Northanger Abbey”: the story of the girl who had to learn the hard way that life was not a Gothic Novel, and that she had a mind and a soul. The story in which a girl had to grow up  and know herself before she could be happy in the love of another.

Books of Stephenie Meyer: The Twilight Saga: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, all of which have been made into films which have proved immensely popular.


And lastly The Host.

The Most Well Known Books of Jane Austen:
Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Love and Friendship.

Post Script: My daughter has not read Breaking Dawn, and only half of Eclipse. She has outgrown her love of the books, and has moved on to other literature, with no prompting from me at all. I recommend people to make intelligent choices for themselves, and if their choice leads them to the Twilight series, even after they have read and assimilated other books and literature, then so be it. 
You can read more of Sonelina's work here

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The aftermath . . . (& PTSD)

My last blog on Post Traumatic Stress was closely followed by Tropical Cyclone Yasi (category 5), that hit an area from Cairns to just south of Townsville.

The most badly damaged areas are Tully, Mission Beach, Cardwell, Tully Heads and Hull Heads. These places either need a complete rebuild or a rethink of the positioning of the houses and roads so close to the shore. To give you an idea of where I am in relation to these places, it’s just a 40 min drive to Tully from here and and hour to Cardwell.

It’s been such an emotional couple of weeks. I wrote about the PTSD when I did because I had concerns about the flood survivors, but it seems that something was learned from Cyclone Larry in 2006.  People in the right places have realised that homes can be rebuilt and communities can be cleaned up, but once it’s all over, the residents may become depressed, or anxious or develop a fear of heavy rain or wind.

Watching all the reports on the news shows about TC Yasi and the aftermath, there has been a lot of talk about mental health as well as physical needs of the people who experienced this trauma.

My partner Bruce made the decision to leave Innisfail for this cyclone. I wanted to stay . . . desperately. I have no idea why, I just wanted to be here. I couldn’t talk my dad into leaving with us, so I was worried about him in part, but I really wanted to stay. 

Bruce insisted and I wasn’t going to let him go anywhere without me, so we packed up three dogs, two cats, (in one carrier), and one of his aeroplanes and headed off to Mackay at midnight the night before the cyclone hit.  I should explain about the aeroplane. Bruce has three planes and a half ownership of a hanger at our local airport, but it’s almost impossible to get insurance for these things. If the Cat. 5 had hit us, the hanger and his planes would have been trashed.

Innisfail Court House on Rankin Street. Taken ...
The morning we left, (Tuesday), I couldn’t eat and I was sure I was going to vomit. I hadn’t slept since the previous Saturday when we realised the cyclone was heading our way.  The whole town was really tense and on edge.  We knew what a Cat. 5 meant if it hit us. The lady at the checkout in Coles had tears in her eyes as we talked about how there was very little tinned food left on the shelves.

People in Innisfail lined up to get petrol all day on Tuesday, every plastic storage container in the town sold out, as did batteries, candles, bottles of water and most of the tinned food.  We knew how to prepare this time.

Residents of the other communities who had ‘been through Larry’, thought we were all being paranoid and a bit over the top. But we lived through the last ‘aftermath’. 

I think that what the other towns didn’t really understand was . . .  Larry hit Innisfail head on. It flogged us for 5 or 6 hours at the most and then it left.  Yasi was headed right for us (again!) and was predicted to have Cat. 5 winds near the eye for 12-18 hours. If that had happened there would be nothing left standing.
33 Cyclone Yasi
As it happened, Yasi turned just before landfall and hit right below us at Tully, Mission Beach and Cardwell.  Innisfail would have got winds at about a high Cat. 3. We lost most, but not every banana plant this time. Few, but some, houses have damage and lost roofs, but not like last time.

During Larry, Tully had almost it’s whole banana crop standing, which tells you that Larry was a small and concentrated hit, while Yasi flogged the living daylights out of a 500km radius.

Tropical Cyclone Larry over the Great Barrier ...
Cyclone Larry, 19th March 2006
Tropical Cyclone Yasi
Cyclone Yasi, 3rd Feb 2011
My heart goes out to the communities worst affected by this horrendous storm. I am still in disbelief at the size and ferocity of it.

It’s going to take a long time for the people in these areas to come to terms with what happened. 

My nightmares have started up again and I wasn’t even here to have that terrible howling noise of the wind in my head . . . but still, I can hear it. I’m having dreams where I’m just afraid of something, or nothing, I can’t explain. I’m not dreaming about cyclones, but I can’t say I’ve slept properly since before it hit, even though I seem to be sleeping every chance I get.

I know these are symptoms of the anxiety and panic now, so I am more able to understand them and let the feelings flow through me instead of trying to pretend I’m ok and keep my mind too busy to be able to think about the ‘hard stuff’.

Just like I set time aside each day to meditate, I set time aside, (just a small amount), for me to think about the things that are worrying me in detail. I let my mind go for it! All the bad things that can or could or may happen float through my head . . .  but I just watch and listen to them. I am working on not personalising them or dwelling on them, just letting them happen and accepting them as thoughts and not reality.

Of course, I’m not always successful. For instance, it’s nearly midnight and I can’t sleep. I’m having trouble switching off my brain to the ‘what if’s’ at the moment. Writing about it will help, I’m already yawning and feeling ready to try to relax again.

I went to meet my new boss today and the teacher I’ll be working closely with this year.  I was very open with them about my melt down and my recovery. Not sure if they were shocked or interested or could care less or maybe they were just worried about how I’ll cope at work.  It doesn’t matter to me, best to be honest and open about these things. After all, we did just have another cyclone and there’s more to come yet I’m sure!
Black Humour

It’s been nearly a month since I wrote the post above. I still haven’t had a good nights sleep since before the cyclone and don’t really expect to until cyclone season is over.

For some unknown reason they sent the army away AGAIN after only two weeks. All the communities that were less affected still have piles of green waste and household damaged items sitting out the front of their places.  The more damaged areas still have masses and masses of work to be done.

The insurance agencies are insisting that contractors from NSW, Brisbane and VIC do all the repair work and are also replacing white goods and furniture with items purchased and shipped from Melbourne and Sydney!!! 
  • Never mind that the Premier said this wouldn’t happen. 
  • Never mind that the local businesses are missing out on a chance to employ locals and keep the local economy afloat. 
  • Never mind that the elderly now have to hire people to clean up for them. 
  • Never mind that the natural disaster relief money ($1000 per adult) still hasn’t been given to those who applied just after the cyclone, and the list goes on . . .

I don’t understand.  Someone I know was chasing up Bob Katter today. I hope he can help. This situation is nuts. 

Anyway, I’m going to post this blog now. But I’m sure I’ll have more to say!

Oh, and we only lost about 20-30% of our donations. The Overflow in Innisfail where we store most of our stuff held up pretty well. Phew!
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