Connect: Barnardos foster carers Gemma with Tamara, 19, who she provided respite care when she was 17. Photo: Olivia Sargent
This Foster Care Week, Barnardos Australia urges people from all walks of life to consider becoming foster carers.
Barnardos carer recruitment and support worker Natasha Williamson said the Orange centre urgently needed more foster carers, especially short-term crisis carers and Aboriginal carers.
As foster carers across Australia celebrate the huge difference they have made to the lives of children through foster care, three local foster carers have shared their stories.
Gemma is a short-term crisis carer. Along with her husband, she has been fostering off and on for about 10 years.
She currently has two foster children in her care, aged on and two, as well as four children of her own aged 19, 14, 13 and eight.
"Even when I was a kid, I always wanted to have lots of kids, a big, busy household," Gemma said.
"I don't do it for the thanks. When you see a child come into your care with so much going on in their life, to be able to give them a normal life makes you happy within yourself. And I love it when they come back and visit."
Having her own family made fostering a team effort, Gemma said.
"It has taught them (her children) empathy and patience, and made them aware of how lucky they are," she said.
Colin and Merrilyn are long-term carers and have been fostering since 2000, first with the Department of Community Services and then with Barnardos.
They currently have one foster child, who has been in their care for almost seven years, as well as two former foster children, now 18, who have lived with the couple since they were 10.
"We already had children of our own and we saw a need in the community," Colin said.
"Children who needed a safe, happy living environment, and we could offer that."
Colin said he felt immensely privileged to be given the opportunity to have such a positive impact on a child's life.
"A safe, loving, caring environment - children deserve those things," he said.
Tammy is an Aboriginal kin carer, who carers for her three nieces - twins, aged 5, and another child, aged 11.
Coming from a tight-knit family, Tammy didn't think twice about becoming a carer for the girls, when they needed her.
"It's something you do for your family," she said.
"Watching them grow, given the struggles they've gotten over and how far they've come, is very rewarding.
"It's great to look at them today and see how much they've achieved."
To talk about becoming a foster carer with Barnardos contact 1800 663 411 or visit our We Care section for more information.
(This article was first published in the Central Western Daily on 16 September, 2015.)