Widowed father honour late wife’s wishes by caring for Toowoomba’s most troubled children

Specialist foster carer Daniel Ryan is dedicated to caring for Toowoomba’s most troubled children so they can reclaim their childhood.

Mr Ryan raised his son and daughter alone after his wife tragically passed away on their son’s second birthday in 2003.

“My wife and I always spoke about fostering, before she passed away,” Mr Ryan said.

“My children are grown up now, so I decided to foster through OzChild and was placed with my first child in 2020,” he said.

“OzChild staff are dedicated and amazing. You would not believe these are the same children once they have finished the program.”

Mr Ryan receives $2,500 per fortnight, as caring for these children is a full-time role.

Each morning, an OzChild staff member phones Mr Ryan and they work through a behaviour questionnaire with 40 questions covering topics such as swearing, nightmares, bedwetting, destructive behaviour etc. so the team can get an accurate picture of the child’s progress and identify the underlying cause of problematic behaviours.

“As a foster carer, you’ve got to be very thick-skinned,” Mr Ryan said.

“All children’s trauma-related behaviours are different, some are more extreme than others,” he said.

“No matter what they do, you keep your promise that you will not yell at them, you will not punish them, you will just be there for them and point out all the good things about them.

“These children need to be loved. What happened to them was not their fault. Some of these kids have been neglected, abused, and told their whole life that they are bad.”

Member for Toowoomba South David Janetzki MP said it was imperative these children spend time in a caring family environment.

“Routines, set mealtimes, sitting around a table together to eat, chores and rewards help shape a more positive mindset,” Mr Janetzki said.

“Children in a constant fight or flight mindset cannot settle or see a path ahead,” he said.

OzChild has a teacher on their staff team and places high importance on getting children back into school.

Mr Ryan said it took a lot of patience, as in some instances children were dropped at school only to be picked up a few minutes later.

“One (foster) child had been moved from school to school and kept getting expelled, he had spent very little time in school before he came to live with me,” Mr Ryan said.

“He changed so much and was back at school fulltime before he finished the program,” he said.

“Another child was only eight years old and had already lived in more than 30 different homes because no one could manage his outbursts.

“Another boy I took in was a great kid. He stayed in school all the time, but his family could not care for him properly. He would be roaming the streets at night, sniffing glue, using drugs. He was easily led.”

Specialist foster carers take on just one child at a time, for a period of between nine to 12 months.

This is vastly different to residential care in which four children live in a house supervised by a paid shift/youth worker.

Mr Ryan said OzChild’s program was transformational.

“Seeing the children turning around is amazing,” Mr Ryan said.

“I would read bedtime stories and they would give me a hug,” he said.

“I have bought every kid a bike which makes them very happy, but a lot of the kids are not materialistic.

“They prefer your love, your time with them. In the end, they want to prove themselves to you.

“It is a pity OzChild can’t get enough specialist foster carers as they truly are changing lives.”

Mr Ryan has kept a few letters from the children he has fostered which read “thank you for all you’ve done” and “you’re my best friend”.

To find out more about becoming a specialist foster carer visit ozchild.org.au