Jacinta Boniwell

The memory of a Brisbane high school friend who was fostered led Jacinta Boniwell to become a foster parent.

Now Jacinta, 40, is giving two beautiful young Aboriginal girls in Alice Springs a chance at an education and a bright future.

The family has gathered at Alice Springs Telegraph Station to chat about their lives and foster care. 

“It’s something I’ve been very passionate about for a long time,” Jacinta said.
“Every kid deserves a chance.”

The two girls are cousins Jennifer and Delia (not their real names), who soon turn 13 and 11 respectively. 

Jacinta tells how the girls often make her laugh, one of the many joys they now bring to her life. 

“Kids enrich your life, and these kids definitely do,” Jacinta said. “Being cousins, they can talk in language together and there’s that sense of family connectedness.”

Born in Alice Springs, Jennifer was raised on a remote community by her father’s family. Around the age of four she moved to Alice Springs to be with her mother’s family. 

Jennifer has lived with Jacinta for more than four years now, and attends high school in Alice Springs where Jacinta is a drama and social studies teacher. 

Delia came to live with the family after her grandmother asked Jacinta if she would care for her as well as Jennifer. 

Jacinta first tried foster care in 2008, committing more earnestly to it from 2010. She has opened her home for five children in all, and for both short and long term care. Short term care means taking care of a child over a
weekend or for several weeks. Jacinta found this hard to predict and it didn’t suit her.

“I enjoy long term care because you can establish relationships,” Jacinta said. 

But teaching and caring for the girls without help from a partner, means life with foster kids can sometimes be a challenge. And as a single foster mum, Jacinta stresses you don’t have to be a particular sort of family in order to help.

“There are all sorts of foster parents out there,” she said.

Nevertheless, Jacinta warns, when you take on someone else’s kids, they come with their own experiences. 

"You’ve got to work out what is sustainable,” she said. “There will always be extra curve balls that come your way.”

Maintaining contact with Jennifer’s and Delia’s original families is important for Jacinta, who was already close to Jennifer’s grandmother before accepting her role as foster parent. But family visits - which tend to fluctuate between once a fortnight and monthly - can be emotionally unsettling. But when struggling with administrative difficulties, or in need of advocacy, she turns to the Foster Carers’ Association NT. 

“They help me in my relationship with the Department of Children and Families,” she said. 

“I’m lucky. They’re good kids – you get attached to them but they are on loan to you, and (parting) will be very emotional.”