Bernie Geary says all that children in foster care want is “more of the normal”.
Mr Geary, Victoria’s principal commissioner for children and young people, said foster carers throughout the south-west opened their homes to children who had been let down by those who should love them the most.
“I reckon in a lot of ways they have been forgotten, and you can use words like abandoned and neglected, but they have been betrayed by adults,” she said.
“It is a long way back to winning their trust and heart and repairing the damage done.”
Mr Geary said the care wasn’t difficult and children just needed consistency.
“They need consistency and to know what is going to happen tomorrow, it’s not tricky,” he said.
“They really do need a place of normal.”
Yesterday, 2095 teddy bears were laid at the steps of St Joseph’s church to represent the number of children and young people in foster care throughout Victoria.
Warrnambool residents Margaret McKellar and Ken Burnett have been foster carers for more than a decade.
Ms McKellar said every foster child “weaved a way” into her family.
She was a stay-at-home mum when she saw a campaign calling for foster carers and thought her family had room for one more.
“It’s very rewarding, you don’t have to be a saint or a super parent,” she said.
“Security and love is all they want. It’s just like what you would do for your own child.”
Ms McKellar and Mr Burnett have had 23 children in their care and stays can range from overnight, to a fortnight, to three years.
They were 50 when they started and they are now caring for an eight-year-old girl full-time and another eight-year-old girl on weekends.
“Of course they are challenging but they are also incredibly funny, enchanting and full of life,” Mr Burnett said.
“These kids have filled our lives with absolute joy.”
Mr Burnett and Ms McKellar support the girl in their full-time care to maintain a connection with her family, making sure there is regular contact and communication.
“Nothing can shake the bond that a parent and daughter share and we will continue to honour that bond,” Mr Burnett said.
There are 5678 children and young people in out-of-home care in Victoria. This number has increased by 15 per cent in the last five years.
MacKillop Family Services’ foster care fortnight runs until Saturday and the organisation provides its foster carers with ongoing support, training and regular breaks.
Foster carers are also entitled to financial reimbursements.
To find out more about becoming a MacKillop foster carer call 1300 791 677 or visit www.fostercarefortnight.com.au