We are saddened to hear of the passing of Fran Ring - a long-serving family day care educator who has been associated with BCHS for more than 28 years. A wonderfully caring person who has impacted on the lives of so many through the years. Our thoughts are with Fran's family and friends. We put together this wonderful story on Fran for our Quality of Care Report in 2015 and we republish today as a lasting tribute:
Toys still dominate Fran Ring’s Bendigo home.
They sit stacked by the walls of rooms and around the spacious backyard.
But the smiling faces that once tirelessly played with them have gone. Life is a little quieter these days.
Fran honoured a promise to herself to stop working on her 70th birthday by ending her 28-year career as a Bendigo Family Day Care educator with Bendigo Community Health Services in August.
Having found the time to care for her own family and more than 150 children for other families through her career, retirement was a tough call for Fran.
Truth be told, you get the feeling she’s still not convinced but a promise is a promise.
“Even now I’ve retired I think … did I do the right thing?’’ she confesses.
Fran’s love of children led her to the BCHS Bendigo Family Day Care service.
“At the time my daughter was looking for work, so we did day care together,’’ she said.
“It became a good job for myself, who wanted to be a stay at home mum.”
The years since have delivered enormous satisfaction, special friendships and the pure joy of being with children and the entertainment of the little quirky things they say.
“You are taking into your care a parent’s most precious possession, so that really is a big responsibility,’’ Fran says.
She then offers the story of a little Sri Lankan boy that came into her care to illustrate the enormous reward such responsibility delivers.
“These parents had only just come to Bendigo and the little boy had no English. I had to teach him English. So I sat on the couch, I read books to him, pointed out things… that was a big responsibility that one,’’ she says.
The Sri Lankan family also illustrates the strong emotional ties that come with day care.
“The little boy cried probably for three months when his mother left him and I think the mother probably did the same. But she was a student at the uni so she needed to leave her child somewhere – that was a big responsibility. Those parents didn’t know people in Bendigo and that little boy was put with someone who he didn’t know about – it would have been scary for him.
“But we are still friends now – the parents. Those two children in that family came to visit on my 70th birthday.’’
Fran says farewells are the toughest part of family day care.
“Over the years when children have left – you‘d sit and cry when they go. Even now I can get all misty eyed,’’ she said.
“I can remember we had a little baby from six weeks old to three – we stood on the nature strip and cried when she left. Because the mum would bring her breast milk frozen and we would feed that child that way so the mother could do her job.
“It’s a big thing for parents to leave their children with a stranger but they soon grow to trust I suppose and feel comfortable with it.”
Fran can’t think of a better job for anyone who enjoys the company of children and teaching them.
“You get the reward of seeing how they grow and improve and learn… blossom,’’ she says.
Fran has welcomed the ‘backing’ of Bendigo Community Health Services staff through the years and kept herself educated to ensure she could do the job safely.
“We need to have Certificate III in Children’s Services, we attend in-services to update our first aid, asthma, anaphylaxis. We are police checked, we have a working with children check. The home is annually safety checked by BCHS staff, so if we’ve got all those things in place then we should be OK,’’ she said.
“Of course, the job is to watch the children all the time. You don’t go off and do what you want to do all the day… the children are your responsibility, so you are there with them all the time. You go outside with them, you don’t just let them run willy-nilly. We have our fire screens around our heaters, we have a mandatory check list each day. So all of that – you have to put in the work to get the satisfaction at the end of it.”
Fran doesn’t hesitate when asked what she found most common in children under her care.
“They like to be the boss,’’ she laughs.
“I say: ‘Who’s the boss?’ and they say, ‘Fran’s the boss’ to me.
“I like to treat them with kindness and treat them as if they were my own but at the same time they need to know their boundaries and I found that worked and they seemed to respect it.
“I stick with what my boundaries are – I don’t give in on it – because that’s not teaching them and the guidance isn’t good for them if you don’t stay with what you do.”
Fran admits she often thinks about what has become of many of the children that have passed through her care.
“Some of them, I would love to know what they’re doing now because they were probably little monkeys in their day and I think I just wonder what you’ve done and where you’re at in life,” she says.
Fran speaks fondly of the friendships she has forged with parents, other educators and BCHS staff and cherishes the visits, cards, letters and gifts she has received.
“I had a parent who wrote me a nice card on my 70th birthday. She just happened to look in her diary and see it was my birthday and she worked out that it must have been my 70th. It had been 16 years since I’d heard from her. She rang me and then followed it with a card and photos of her daughter, how she was and what she was doing now. That was such a nice thing to happen.”
Flicking through a pile of letters from parents and children, the affection for Fran is instantly obvious.
A letter from one grateful parent read: “The day to day love and patience, the endless hours of providing treats, playgroup, hot chips, homemade tracksuits made with love by Fran can never be forgotten.
“Your wisdom, tireless, selfless dedication not only to our precious children but to the countless children in your care.
“Words just don’t seem enough for a thank you but know in all of our lives in the times ahead there’s a little bit of Fran in each of us.”
Another card talked about how Fran had ‘become a family member’ through the years.
“I can still remember how we started with you – crying, worries – but day by day you overcome all of these dispatches. Soon I realised that this the best place our son can be ever. You cared for him in a loving way and he learned a lot from you – the way he behaved, the way he talked – we can see your influence in all of these. He has become a very polite little boy and I think you deserve to have all the credits Fran,’’ it read.
“Fran you have proved that you are a real loving mother – not only for your own children but also for many children. You not only cared for our son but also you cared for us. You gave us support, you listened to us, you encouraged us. Because of you I had peace in my mind to do my studies.
“You have done so much for us. We shared our lives with you. We started our day with you. It is sad to finish our son’s care with you but we will remember you forever. We will meet you again. You, your house and your family are precious memories of our lives.
“Thank you Fran for everything you have done for us.”
Educators such as Fran are irreplaceable for Bendigo Community Health Services but with a waiting list of families, the search goes on.