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December 9th, 2021

Bree Henderson is a busy specialist teacher, single parent and foster carer in East Victoria.


Earlier this year her whole household was sent into a 14-day isolation at home due to COVID exposure, just as Victoria was beginning to emerge from restrictions.


“I was a bit devastated. When we heard and the reality of it dawned on me that as the sole adult and carer to my own young children and the siblings in my care, I was going to need to find a way for us all to cope for 24 hours a day for the 2 weeks with none of our usual activities or supports,” says Bree.


“We had enough food in the house but I got onto a supermarket delivery service pretty quickly. A good friend dropped off a new board game and brought me a doorstep coffee a couple of times. I can’t tell you how nice that was. I don’t buy myself a coffee very often. I don’t have time to sit and drink a hot coffee very often, but in the middle of the long days it was really nice.”


Bree says she tries to run a fairly tight schedule at home, with all children used to a good routine, healthy food, sleep routine and getting out for exercise and activities which she targets to meet the individual needs of each of the children.

As a school teacher, Bree is also familiar with what works and what doesn’t overall for young people and sees the benefits of the mix of activity, exercise, sleep and routine, especially for the two in her care with higher needs. 


“The days were really long without the park visits, swimming lessons and so on, but I managed by making sure I structured the day so we weren’t just looking at the long, vacant hours. I let them sleep in a bit longer than usual, but then by 7.30am they still had a packed lunch in their lunchboxes, so that they knew where their food was until early afternoon and could help themselves for the day and still had that routine. We had snack time, lunchtime, lots of drawing and other activities to fill up the morning, so that routine helped.”  


Bree had already been facing barriers from the school for the children in her care to attend onsite learning during Victoria’s lockdowns, despite the mandate that all vulnerable young people are eligible to attend. Now that really wasn’t an option, Bree wouldn’t have wanted to send any of them to school anyway, with the possibility of infecting other people if they had been sick.


“I “zoned” the house sometimes when it got tense, so that everyone got separate spaces on rotation. “Ok, you can have the loungeroom for an hour and you can have that room next”, it was an important way for them all to find space and not bicker or get on each other’s nerves. I realised early-on in the quarantine period that with my job being even more intensive working online, I wasn’t also going to be able to support the kids with online schooling, so I declared it 2 weeks holiday in that regard. There was just no way to do it all.”


“We don’t do much television because the girls don’t cope well with turning it off. It’s just better for everyone if it isn’t an expectation to begin with because the meltdown at the end is not worth it. I think they spent a lot of their early life in front of a tv so it doesn’t go well for them.” “We only watched one movie in our lockdown time.”


Bree has found the CREATE Foundation online events have been so important this year. “It’s been great to have those online events to connect the girls in with.” “They love it and get a lot out of being online with other young people in care. It is also great to know they are well engaged for that time. I hope they continue.” “The in-person events are really great don’t get me wrong, I drove 4 hours there and 4 hours back again once so that we could get to a CREATE beach day, but the accessibility online has been really a blessing at the moment and of course, is much easier to get to!”


“We had another scare just recently with just one of the girls at a tier 1 site and she and I had to isolate for a couple of days while we got tested.  The others were allowed to go to school but I called the agency and they said I could take her with me in the car to get to a chemist for a click and collect rapid antigen tests for us. It cost me $70 but I wasn’t willing to risk exposing anyone else.” 


“Yes, the logistics have been quite tough. It’s been frustrating seeing people out in Victoria not doing the right thing when you know what you’re going through to protect other people but, you do what you can.” 


“We got a hamper from the agency a week later which was really nice and one of my workers checked in, but there’s not a lot of support you can get in quarantine.”


“We couldn’t get takeaway during the lockdown so that’s what we did to celebrate once our negative results came back after the 14 days. Usually, I’d get us all out to collect the takeaway and get home quickly to eat it, but this time we lingered out and all of the children really appreciated ordering what they wanted and being out while we waited for it to be ready, even more because we’d been cooped up. It was a real treat.”


A remarkable feat and a true example of the added pressures carers have faced during the pandemic. If you are notified that you or your household has been exposed to COVID and need to enter a quarantine period with the children and young people in your care, please don't hesitate to contact the FCAV immediately for support. 

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