Warrnambool foster carers Ken Burnett and Margie McKellar have opened their doors to help others.
It is a role that began 15 years ago when their daughter Anna was five, Ms McKellar was a stay-at-home mother and their spare room was empty.
It is a role they say they have enjoyed from the start.
“I saw an advertisement in the newspaper, possibly even during a week promoting foster care,” Ms McKellar said.
“I have always loved babies and we had an extra room for someone else, so we underwent the training.”
Foster carers commit to either long-term, respite or emergency care that can range from one weekend a month to full-time stay.
“It’s just like having another family member,” Mr Burnett said.
“The skills you need are no different to the skills needed in having your own kids, or grandkids.
“We are just ordinary folks with ordinary families who provide a safe and secure home.”
MacKillop Family Services, who co-ordinate foster care across the south-west, have 45 households and 66 registered carers on their records and are keen to increase numbers.
MacKillop Family Services training and support worker Tania Ferris says the service needs the community’s help.
“There are currently 100 children in care in the Warrnambool region, 41 in foster care and eight in our residential program,” she said
“We always need more (carers).”
Ms Ferris admits the role of foster carer, while valuable, can be challenging.
“Any child who has been removed from everything they know, into something they don’t know, is going to be timid and distressed. It’s only natural,” she said.
“But these are just ordinary kids who have come through a difficult situation. They are still just kids.”
MacKillop Family Services provide training and on-going support for people considering becoming foster carers.
“As you can imagine we work in a crisis situation. It’s all about trauma informed care,” Ms Ferris said.
“Carers learn about what trauma is, how it can affect the developing brain of a child, what behaviours can manifest as a result and then strategies to put in place to help assist these children when they’re finding things a little challenging.”
Despite the intensity of the role, Mr Burnett said it was a fulfilling one.
“We get a huge amount out of it. It is satisfying and rewarding to see kids settle, and children bringing energy and new interests into a home,” Mr Burnett said.
“There are bits of them that fill your family.”
The main aim of any foster carer is reuniting children with their family.
“It is satisfying to see them go home. We aim for that – and hopefully with new skills to deal with life again,” Mr Burnett said.
MacKillop Family Services will run information sessions in the region in October.
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