ONE of Luke Sapwell's earliest memories of family life was locking himself in the toilet to escape a beating from his step-father.
Now a banking and finance professional, the 31-year-old spent 10 years in foster care, from the age of eight to 18.
"It's very unsettling going into care, because your natural desire is to be in your family home," Luke says.
But that was not possible for the young Luke. He was taken from his birth family, along with his sister and half-brother, because of a history of violence, alcohol and drug abuse.
"I initially went into foster care with my sister with a lady named Katherine," Luke says.
"But I had behavioural problems and I would run away constantly.
"The carer couldn't manage, so I went back home for a period of time.
"That was a terrible idea and I was taken back out of the family home and placed into another carer's home."
That placement was with a foster carer named Lorraine, who Luke says became his rock.
Lorraine struggled to walk, using a walking frame to move around in her housing commission home.
"But Lorraine had a heart of gold; her value was in her heart and actions," Luke said.
He stayed with Lorraine from the age of eight to 15.
"Lorraine was a rock for me at a time when everything in my life was so unstable,
"I was supported and provided with what I needed to thrive; stability.
"At the time I needed the bare essentials, I would be going to school without a uniform and no shoes.
"With Lorraine, I was able to have a shower before school, I had a pencil case, lunch in my bag and shoes. Things other children take for granted.
"I could go home from school, do my homework and not lock myself in the bathroom for three hours to avoid my mum's [abusive] partner."
Sadly, Lorraine died a few years ago and Luke paid tribute to his foster mum at a special meeting of the Foster Care Association of Victoria.
"Foster care was tough, it's never a nice feeling knowing you have no one in your family that can take you," Luke said.
"But it was my saving grace and I recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone."
CONSIDER THE ROLE OF BEING A CARER
IT takes about six months to become a foster carer, after which you are able to foster babies and children up to the age of 18.
Government appointed agencies work with potential carers across Australia to assess suitability and train people to take on the role of fostering.
While most people can foster a child, people with full-time work might want to consider offering respite care, such as looking after a child during school holidays, or at weekends.
People wanting to foster must be aged 25 or over and be a permanent resident.
Children will need:
- A place to sleep
- Food and snacks
- Comfort items