INGRID Ballinger still remembers the faces of the hundreds of children she has fostered.
For 14 years, the Buddina woman has opened her heart and home to children from newborns to teens in the hopes of making their lives just that bit easier.
When Mrs Ballinger thinks back on the children that have come and gone from her life, her eyes glisten and her smile deepens.
Fostering children has enriched the 64-year-old Austrian-born woman's life in more ways than she can describe. Having raised four kids of her own and cared for more than 125 foster kids, this "super mum" hopes to continue on this path for at least another decade.
Mrs Ballinger has four foster kids living with her at the moment, including three from one family, one of which has a significant disability.
She and her husband, Steve, foster kids through the Maroochydore-based organisation, Integrated Family and Youth Service.
Currently the organisation is in need of new carers to look after a growing number of in-need teenagers and children.
"It is the best thing I have ever done," Mrs Ballinger said about becoming a foster mum.
"I am a better foster parent than I was a parent, because I have learnt so many new skills.
"There are so many rewards and so many positive stories to tell - most of which I can't talk about (so their identities are not revealed).
"I couldn't think of anything else I would do at this stage of my life.
"My husband is marvellous, loving and kind. And the boys love that he does a lot of sport with them."
For the majority of her fostering years Mrs Ballinger has looked after teenagers and said although sometimes it could be "challenging", it was worth it.
"You have to open up your heart and stay a little detached," she said about the job of a foster parent.
"I can separate quite easily - I foster not to take ownership of the kids, but to provide a service for them.
"They become part of the family for the time they are here.
"You learn to attach and detach yourself.
"I treat them like they are my own, but not with the intention of keeping them away from their family."
Mrs Ballinger said her goal was always to work toward "reunification" between the child and their parents, although sometimes this was not possible.
"It makes me really happy to reunite mums and kids," she said. "Even though I don't have any actual say over this, I try to help where I can."
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