“There’s a stigma about foster care but I’m very happy I went into foster care. I can’t imagine the person I’d be if I stayed where I was before.”
Those are the words of Prestons resident Kieren Biggs, who shared his experiences for Foster Care Week.
He was brought up in a violent and unhealthy home where drugs and alcohol were involved before he was moved into foster care at 12.
He has 12 siblings and was put into a home with his older brother who was removed when the brother got violent. He said it was for the better.
“He was struggling to adjust. He missed the family. My foster carer was in Denham Court and I stayed with the same family for six years. I lived with them after I was of age.
“My foster mum died and that was really difficult. But I still keep in close contact with my foster father.”
He said his biological dad died a couple of years ago but he’s rekindled a relationship with his mum.
He realises now the impact of his time in care.
“Then I didn’t think it affected me but, looking back, it did. As a child I wasn’t optimistic, nor against it. It took me a while to open up but I did a year or so afterwards. They were helpful and positive each step of the way.
“Before, I’d been abused so often I didn’t know any different. When I went into care I wasn’t punished the same way. They just took away technology time. I learned patience. My carers didn’t snap or get angry when I acted out – they understood we were struggling.”
He said despite a challenging childhood he has no resentment.
“I can still remember my early childhood but I choose not to. It doesn’t control who I am. It rushed my maturity. I couldn’t be a young kid for long because of what I was going through.
“But I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t go through that. My past has never held me back. I’ve sworn to never be like my mum; it was a big example of what not to do.
“There was a long-term foster boy who became like a brother who I still talk to now. And there was a respite boy who used to come in and out – he ended up staying. My foster carers are my family.
“They’d never replace my mother or father but they were like an uncle and aunt. My foster mum had a big heart and loved everyone.”
He got two certificates at TAFE and is now a youth worker who mentors foster kids.
“My experience makes it easier to relate. The kids see who I am today as a positive role model.”
He’s also established a home and his own relationship.
“I may be young but I think I’ve figured things out. I’m happy with who I am, I’ve got a great girlfriend, good friends, a stable home, a stable job. What more could you ask? Yes, it was challenging, but I got there.”
- FOSTER CARE WEEK: September 9 to 15.
- Life Without Barriers is calling for more people to help care for the increasing numbers of children who need safe, supportive and nurturing homes.
- Details: atlwb.org.au/fostercare