It was the contrast between weekdays and weekends that made such an impact on Gary and Lisa. During the week they ran a family daycare service where they took care of small children who were dearly loved, wanted and cherished. But on the weekends when they were crisis carers in the foster system, they saw a very different reality.
They also saw how babies and small children were easy to find placements for, but for teenagers, happy endings were far rarer as adolescents were shifted from placement to placement, with no stable family influences. Their outcomes were bleak.
Although Lisa and Gary felt overwhelmed by the size of the systematic problem, they couldn’t walk away from it. And in early 2020 they began to put their plan into action step by step. Today they’ve established and run a foster farm home for teenagers in rural New South Wales, alongside a charity “Give them a chance”. Their young charges are flourishing in an environment of acceptance, love, and clear boundaries. This is a beautiful story of next chapters that will fill you with warmth, hope and inspiration.
- We felt overwhelmed when we looked at the size of the challenge but we’re committed. We’re making a difference. We’re turning lives around.
- We’d talked about the idea for 2 years, lockdown spurred us on.
- Once you follow your path, it opens up for you
- We followed the signs, our hearts and our passion and like-minded people kept appearing to help
- We wanted to look after the kids who really needed our love
- The alternative for too many teens are group homes with often really negative outcomes – they don’t have the chance to develop emotional connections because they are always being moved on
- Tree House Farm is a foster farm home for these teenagers who don’t have a permanent placement. We provide discipline, boundaries, love and attention. We give them self-efficacy and empowerment. They become a part of our village.
They’ve had pretty awful role models in the past – now they have the chance to learn to trust with grandparents and mentors from the community - this gives our volunteers a strong sense of purpose too
- We’re a test model for the Foster Care system – the government are watching us to see how it works. Our vision is for more Farm homes around the state and eventually, across the country, we just need more Mum’s and Dad’s to choose this
- How did we start? We just did! Time is the most valuable asset you have – how will you use it? How long do you wait before you live the life you really want to?
- We had plenty of doubt, plenty of “those days” when it just didn’t feel like it was going to work. Just persevere. Understands there will be ups and downs, but stay connected to your vision, your why and then change direction, try a new angle, there is always a way through
- Don’t listen to the negative people, don’t let them distract you from your dream
- Just be kind. Be loving. You never know what someone has gone through.
About the speaker
Gary and Lisa Rayner are the founders of Give Them A Chance Inc. They owned a successful child care business in Sydney's Northern Beaches, spending their weekdays with very loved pre-schoolers with dedicated parents. On the weekends, they were Foster Crisis Carers for The Department of Community Services. The disparity between the weekday children's lives and the weekend children's trajectories was heartbreaking. Lisa and Gary have fostered more than 40 children and dreamed of doing more to help foster children. They decided to live out their passion of helping as many disadvantaged children as possible by relocating to the north coast of New South Wales to open "Treehouse Farm".
They have collected many pertinent, encouraging supporters along their way, and the community has grown. Supporters include school principals, psychologists, social workers, other child advocates and major supporter, Wesley Mission.
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