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What a difference a year makes

A global health crisis has put a spotlight on the urgent need for community members to open their doors to children in need. As the number of vulnerable children needing a safe and stable home is expected to rise, Anita and Nicole are encouraging those who can to consider opening their door to a child in need.

Coming from extended families, Anita and Nicole always knew they wanted to share their lives with children. With 15 nieces and nephews between them, the couple had long thought about becoming foster carers.

It wasn’t until visiting the MacKillop Family Services stall at Midsumma 2019 that Anita and Nicole decided to seriously pursue this goal.

One year after opening their door – and hearts – to children in need, the couple provide vital care to a brother and sister aged 13 and three.

Now they are urging others to do the same.

Like MacKillop, Anita and Nicole know the global health pandemic currently enveloping the world will place enormous strain on already vulnerable and disadvantaged families facing job and income losses. Such stressors often place children at greater risk of abuse, neglect and family breakdown.

“At a time when communities around the world are in crisis, we hope families might ask themselves what they can do to help those children who are not only frightened and anxious of what’s happening around them, but may be living in homes that are unsafe,” said Anita.

“We know there is an urgent need for foster carers – now even more so.”

With some knowledge of what being a foster carer involved – a former colleague of Anita’s is a foster carer, while Nicole has close family friends who are carers – the couple found becoming accredited carers relatively easy.

“Training was really helpful, especially hearing from other carers. They talked about their own experiences and we learned a lot about trauma and how this can impact children in care. We were so nervous before our first placement: we laugh about it now, but for us, everything went smoothly.”

The Preston couple started as respite carers, looking after children for a few days to give their longer-term foster carers a break.

“The first time we met, the kids came to our home with their foster carers and case manager, so they could get to know us with people they trusted, see where they would sleep and get to know our home,” Anita said.

“Now the kids come to stay with us most weekends and we have the best time. We’ve been horse riding, visiting friends and family, going for ice cream and just hanging out together having a regular family weekend. They are fantastic kids and we have a lot of fun together.

"We’re helping make their lives better, but they have also transformed our lives. If you’ve thought about being a foster carer, just do it - you’ll make such a difference to a vulnerable kid’s life,” said Anita.