Healing hearts

By Petrina Wright | Posted: Thursday July 20, 2023

Family Works foster mum Katrina Taplin (or NaNa as she is known by her foster children) always intended to retire from fostering when she had grandchildren. She recently became a proud first-time grandmother, and yet she just cannot seem to say no to taking in a child in need.

“I am a sucker for children who need to thrive. It is their right to be happy, to have a place of love and security,” she said.

Katrina and her husband David have been foster parents for about six years, taking in and caring for about 25 children aged between 7 months and 17 years in that time.

It all started when the couple’s own two children grew up and moved away.

Katrina decided she wanted to become a Big Buddy, so she went along to a Family Works information night to find out more about the Buddy Programme.

She came away with more than she had anticipated.

After receiving information about the foster care programme, she decided she would become a Big Buddy and a foster parent.

“I’m a very empathetic person, and the need for carers is huge.”

Her husband was happy to get on board with her new calling, although their children were initially somewhat less enthusiastic.

The couple decided to do respite, transitional and short-term foster care, which involved anything from a few days of care to several months.

They live on a farm on the outskirts of Winton, an environment where the children could enjoy playing with the animals, riding on the tractor, climbing on the hay bales, feeding the lambs, exploring the farm and going on nature walks.

Katrina said their goal was to ensure the children felt safe while in their care.

“These kids come from so much trauma.

“We wanted our home to be a place for healing hearts.”

They completed the required training through Family Works and then welcomed the first child into their home.

Their first experience of fostering brought with it some challenges.

The child was very angry and defiant, she said. They persevered with him for several months, but ultimately it was not the right fit and the placement came to an end.

“We were quite unprepared for the amount of trauma the child had.”

The couple could have very well ended fostering there.

“After the first child, I didn’t feel qualified to handle it, but the need for caregivers motivated me to try again.”

Katrina had experienced trauma in her own childhood, so she had empathy for how her foster children felt, she said.

“Sometimes we just need someone to love us for who we are with all our warts and crinkles. Just love us. People think we’re naughty, you just need to look behind our behaviour. All we need is unconditional love, understanding and kindness.”

Katrina took advantage of any training opportunities that came her way and had since developed effective strategies to deescalate situations and better support her foster children.

A supportive husband and support from Family Works staff have also been key.

As a result, Katrina and her family had formed close bonds with many of the children in their care over the years.

There were highs and lows involved in being a foster carer, but with Family Works’ support, they had been able to overcome the obstacles.

“If [the children] felt love, they felt safe and they have had fun [while in my care], I feel I have accomplished filling them and myself.”

*  We always need more foster parents. If this is something you are interested in, contact Allanah on 03 211 8226, email fc@familyworkssld.nz or go to pss.org.nz/family-works/services/foster-care/ to find out more.

Image Gallery