For Queensland couple Idell and Rob, the inability to have more children was something they never thought they would have to face.
Feeling as though they had a lot more love to give after raising their son, Jay, and the loss of subsequent pregnancies, they fostered sisters, Kelly, 5, and Chantelle, 3, in 2008.
Settling back into parenthood, the couple were made aware of Chantelle’s development delays. Upon further investigation she was diagnosed, at five, with level 3 autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual impairment and foetal drug and alcohol syndrome.
“We have four children we adore, but we have developed an especially strong relationship with Chantelle given her needs, and we’ve had the privilege of watching her grow into an incredibly strong young woman and achieve her goals,” Rob said.
Chantelle required a modified environment and additional developmental support, and having raised Jay with no difficulties, the couple soon felt the weight of their caring role.
Adapting their daily routine to Chantelle’s needs, their new responsibilities ranged from the seemingly normal parental tasks, like helping Chantelle tie her shoes to more complex challenges, like looking for alternative ways to help her development in conjunction with ongoing therapies and medical appointments.
“Every aspect of our daily life is organised around Chantelle. Any changes need to be introduced slowly, daily life needs to be planned carefully and her Autism factored into everything we do,” Idell said.
“Being a carer can be mentally exhausting. We are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the situation and always be prepared,” Rob said.
“We strategize around Chantelle’s needs, which can be tiring, but it’s what is best for her.”
Trading their careers in Medical Science and Dance for their caring roles, the couple are able to maintain their social lives and personal interests with support from the NDIS and Chantelle also attends day camps.
Chantelle is offered respite support to help increase her independence which also allows Idell and Rob time to give Kelly and Nat (aged Nine) their attention and spend quality time with them.
“Chantelle works with a support worker who not only gives us time to ourselves, but who also reassures us she is developing at a good rate, from even the simplest things, like teaching her to shop alone or with her support worker, the extra help actually allows Chantelle some form of independence,” Idell said.
In their endeavours to reduce the intensity of her therapy sessions, Idell and Rob recognised Chantelle’s sporting abilities.
A keen runner and horse rider, she has won multiple awards with her parents’ support.
Although faced with constant challenges, Idell and Rob consider themselves lucky for the love Chantelle has brought into their lives.
Learning to appreciate the small wins, they credit their caring role for teaching them compassion.
Appointed Chantelle’s legal guardians two years ago, Idell and Rob continue to care for Chantelle, now 16, as she develops.
They hope through their caring role they can raise awareness around the adversity’s carers face.
“There is a lot of ignorance from people who have not experienced being a carer. Every situation is so individual. There needs to be education for society to not be afraid to ask questions,” Idell said.