CINDY Lehmann isn’t content to rest on her laurels after this week winning Victoria’s Carer of the Year award.
Mrs Lehmann, of Warrnambool, reckons the award gives her clout and she intends to use it to take her advocacy for the children in her care to another level.
And for someone who has spent decades as a champion for kids, those in children’s services had better watch out.
Mrs Lehmann said she wanted to get more professional services for children in care in country areas.
“Services like those for children with mental health issues, counselling and for orthodontics,” she said.
“It’s tough to get them here.
“I look after kids with a disability and it’s hard for disability kids to get help,” she said.
Mrs Lehmann’s award was one of the Robin Clark Memorial Awards presented this week by Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge as part of Child Protection Week.
“By presenting these annual awards, we honour both our best and our brightest, and also our quiet achievers — the selfless volunteer carers who open their homes and their hearts day after day, year after year to abused and neglected children,” Ms Wooldridge said.
During their nearly 24 years as carers, Mrs Lehmann and her family have had about 300 children placed in their care.
She and her husband Robert have nine children and they presently care for three foster children on a long-term basis, which she prefers.
“You can do more with the children, you know what their needs are,” Mrs Lehmann said.
“Stability is one of the best things for a child.
“If they are good, bad or ugly, you’ve got to be there for them,” Mrs Lehmann said. Patience, being non-judgemental and forgiveness were other traits necessary for the role, she said.
“You have to understand where they have come from and the reasons for their behaviours.”
Mrs Lehmann also thanked her family for their support.
“When you do it (foster care), you have to sit down as a family and discuss it.”
She said her children had often woken up in the morning to find a strange child in their room who had been taken in overnight on an emergency placement.
While Mrs Lehmann aims to step up her advocacy for children in care, she did praise the support of Brophy Youth and Community Services for whom she works.
“Brophy have always been accessible to me, from early in the morning to weekend and after hours. They listen to us (the carers),” she said.