End of an era as Southern Region foster carers say goodbye to nappies, bottles and lots and lots of hugs

Posted on 22 December 2017 by Angela Mallon

MacKillop Family Services bade a sad farewell recently to some of our most longstanding foster carers, who have been providing happy homes for children in Melbourne for a combined 79 years.

Couples Marg and Dominick (Nick) Cincotta and Pam and Graham McPherson are retiring from foster care and wanted to say goodbye at the Southern Region Christmas party, which is one of their favourite annual MacKillop events.

Clayton couple, Marg and Nick have been foster carers since 1984. With five children of their own, they were used to the hustle and bustle of family life and loved having children around. Marg had always wanted to care for vulnerable children, and as her own children started to grow up and become more independent, she and Nick decided it was the right time to consider foster caring.

Foster care turned out to be far more rewarding than Marg and Nick had ever expected and they have been caring for kids for the past 33 years. Marg believes her birth children also benefitted greatly from sharing their home with kids in need of care,

“We found that caring for children was a real team effort. My own kids were older, but they were there to support us and it helped them to see that not everyone is blessed with a happy and stable family life. My children, and now my grandchildren, have a better understanding of the difficulties some kids have to face and I believe it has helped them be compassionate and caring.”

Marg and Nick are passionate about providing safe environments for vulnerable children and babies.

“We’ve had children of all ages come to stay with us, some for just a few weeks and others have stayed for years. We’ve tried to do our best for all of them as it’s so important for children to be nurtured from day one.

“In recent years, we’ve concentrated on caring for babies. Often, they will come to us when they are just a few days old. Sometimes the babies can be agitated and hard to settle, but it is so rewarding when after a short time, you see them begin to respond and relax. Making that difference has been the best part of foster care for me,” said Marg.

Unfortunately, Nick Cincotta was unable to attend the party as he has been unwell and Marg accepted MacKillop’s tribute on behalf of them both.

Also hanging up the baby bottles are Pam and Graham McPherson from Pakenham, who have been foster carers since 1971.  Pam had never considered foster care until the day she started chatting to a lady with a baby at her youngest child’s Kinder. She learned the woman was a foster carer who only looked after babies. Pam was so inspired by the discussion that she rushed home to make the phone call that would transform her life for the next 46 years.

“It’s always been about the babies. We’ve had babies stay with us for just a few days, but mostly it is around six months and the longest we’ve had is 33 years! This is a little boy who came to us when he was days old and we then became his permanent carers; he still lives just around the corner with his own children, and is a huge part of our lives.”

Pam enjoys everything about caring for babies and she and Graham work as a tag team to manage the night time feeds.

“I go to bed early and Graham will do the 10 pm feed, so I can get a rest and get up to do the middle of the night feed. Then one of us will take the first morning feed and it starts all over again.

“Working as a team is the reason we have been able to continue looking after babies for so long. Once Graham retired, he was able to step in and help and I have been so glad of his support. When we have an anxious baby, you can spend most of your day nursing and carrying it around and it is wonderful to have another pair of hands to help.”

Pam is sad to see the end of this era in her life, but she feels that it’s the right time to step back from foster care.

“I’ve been steadily giving away all the clothes, toys and bottles that we’ve collected over the years, but I’ve held on to some as it would just seem strange not having any baby things in the house after so long.”

Graham and Pam are looking forward to having some well-deserved rest and travelling within Australia.

“Graham also might get to spend some more time in the garden now that he will have more time on his hands,” Pam said.

MacKillop’s Southern Area Coordinator, Hayley Pitman is sad to say goodbye, but is grateful for the years of hard work and dedication that they gave to the children in their care.

“Marg, Nick, Pam and Graham have been a fantastic support to MacKillop Family Services. They always said yes, no matter what complex issues some of our babies arrived with. I have been astounded at their energy and am so grateful that they have continued to give their time and their love to nurture our vulnerable babies.

“These two couples are leaving a huge void to fill, but in their time with us they have been part of a fantastic support network for other foster carers in the Southern Region and we will all continue to benefit from their advice and experience. As will the hundreds of children who have received a safe and happy home in the time they spent with Marg and Nick, and Pam and Graham.”