Foster Care Week is a good time to remember that across NSW 3700 children are in foster care, and carers are always in high demand.
As part of state-wide celebrations, the DoCS 2006 Foster Carer Awards were held in Sydney on Wednesday, with a number of locals being recognised for opening their hearts and their homes.
A group of six people from Ballina, Lennox Head and Lismore won a special recognition award for caring for 11 siblings and maintaining the relationships between the brothers and sisters.
Sharon from Ballina said it was a unique situation which had never happened before.
Each of the households had between one to three children from the family, who ranged in age from preschool to late teens. The siblings have a big get-together once a week and once a year all the children and all the carers go away on holiday together.
Sharon has been caring for two of the siblings for the last five years and said it has been an incredibly fulfilling experience.
Its been really great to see the children grow and have the opportunities they might not have had, she said. Some of the carers have their own kids and they also benefit so much from knowing the children. And its great that we all get along so they could grow up together. They love going to each others houses. They see all of us as extended family.
Meanwhile, Helen Rigby from Dunoon is a respite foster carer for a 12-year-old boy through Life Without Barriers.
She said she was partly inspired by the fact she had a fairly difficult childhood herself.
If someone had been there for me like that, it would have made a big difference, she said.
She said her whole family had benefitted from the experience, particularly her own daughter.
Hes become like a big brother for her, she said. They fight like brother and sister, but he sticks up for her, and he teaches her things and encourages her into different areas. Shes never picked up a football before, but now we all play and watch the footie together. Hes taught her how to chat on the internet and set up an email address for her. She loves him.
Helen said foster caring was all about esteem building.
Its really not much different from what you do with your own kids, she said. Youve got all these clinicians and professionals but kids often arent in that head space. Loving them and being a family and making it all safe, thats all you can do. Its the best thing you can do, I reckon.
If anyone is interested in being a foster carer phone DoCS on 1800 011 110 or Life Without Barriers on 6681 4472.
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