It was Kate and Greg Hart's teenage daughter who inspired them to get involved in foster care.
The Casterton couple and their two daughters have provided respite care for five children, often on multiple occasions.
"We chose to become foster carers because we believe that we can provide children living in out of home care with a stable, happy and loving home environment," Mrs Hart said.
"We began the foster care application process after our teenage daughter encouraged the rest of our family to participate in what has proven to be such a rewarding experience."
Victoria is facing a critical shortage of foster carers with more than 1700 children in need at any one time.
The shortage worsens in regional areas with just 93 accredited and active foster carers in the western district.
Warrnambool College integration aide Josh O'Dowd and local Indigenous leader Danny Pearson said they wanted to provide a safe home for those who need it.
They are currently caring for a nine year old boy with plans to care for more children in the future.
Despite the challenges, the couple find the fostering journey "deeply rewarding".
"If you decide to become a carer, you have to remember in times of doubt that you are giving a young person a safe place to live, and it is amazingly rewarding," Mr O'Dowd said.
"You also have to look after yourself and loved ones - it takes a village to raise a child and you need the whole village."
The Harts, as well as Josh and Danny, foster through Brophy Family and Youth Services, which provides carers with training and support.
Foster Care Week, which commenced on September 11, is recognising the vital role that foster carers play in ensuring every child has a loving home during periods they can't live with their families.
Hannah Newson, a single carer from Warrnambool, has cared for 18 children, ranging from newborns to teenagers.
She's a foster carer with Mackillop Family Services, which operates nation-wide.
Ms Newson encouraged anyone interested in fostering to get in touch with their local agency.
"If you're worried that you might not be a suitable candidate, I encourage you to take the step and ask the questions. Get in touch with your local agency," she said.
"Anyone who thinks they 'might get too attached' is possibly a wonderful candidate to become a valuable foster carer because these children desperately need opportunities for safe and secure attachments.
"Of course we need to learn and explore ways to help us cope with the challenges of being foster carers, and yes it is hard and you will cry but this is just a part of the journey."
Last month The Standard reported the south-west was in "desperate" need of more local foster carers as agencies attempt to keep vulnerable children in the region.
Mackillop and Brophy family services have since held online information sessions with existing foster carers opening up about what is involved.
Brophy Foster Care engagement coordinator Kylie Gaston this week said her team was keen to let people know fostering didn't have to be full-time.
"Even just caring for a weekend a month can make a huge difference in the lives of young people," she said.
"We recognise that local care for local kids is really important so they can stay connected to their schools, hobbies and friends."
MacKillop Family Services' Tania Ferris said the wider community had no idea how the lack of foster carers was impacting vulnerable children and young people.
"Last year in Victoria, 367 foster carers exited the system due to the pressures of lockdown, while only 373 new foster carers were accredited," she said.
"We know our carers are willing to go above and beyond for the children in their care, but they need the support of more carers in the system."
Anyone over the age of 21 who has a spare bedroom can apply to become a carer.
Applicants take part in training and various checks before becoming an accredited foster carer, and are provided with round-the-clock support, including financial assistance.
For more information about fostering a child or to get in touch with your local foster care agency, visit fosteringconnections.com.au or call 1800 013 088.
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