The most challenging aspect of being a foster family is giving a child back you’ve come to love, according to the Sale family.
Traditionally short-term carers – which means having a child for under two years – they fell totally in love with their newest addition and decided to become her forever family.
Having fostered 11 children over the past 5 years, they couldn’t bear the thought of giving 6-year-old Jade up and decided to officially make her part of their clan.
The now family of six is in the process of taking in a 6-month-old baby who if successful will also stay with them until she reaches 18 and beyond.
Mum Jeanette said after years of saying good-bye to kids they had come to love, they all decided to make their plans more permanent.
She said from the time little Jade arrived at their Alfords Point home they just couldn’t let her go.
“We had always been short-term carers but found the hardest part was giving them back,” she said.
“And then little Jade arrived and we just fell in love with her and knew we wanted her to stay forever.
“She calls me mum and I tell people she is just one of my four children, no explanation is needed.
“It’s not always easy, she did come with some challenging behaviours, but after showing her some love, respect and care she turned the corner.
“She was known to throw chairs around in class and now her teacher says she is one of the best behaved.”
Every night in NSW there are hundreds of children from newborns up desperate for somewhere to call home.
The state’s “secret generation” of children can spend weeks, months even years looking for a family while some never actually find what they are so desperately looking for.
Last month it was estimated there were over 200 requests for assistance to place children, with approximately 50% for long term care; 30% for short term; 10% for immediate and 10% for respite carers.
Most care sought was for boys and the majority of children requiring care were aged 11-15 years, followed by 6-10 years.
Sister Sam Sale, 25, who is a teacher, said she thinks educators make some of the best foster carers because they are used to dealing with children and challenging behaviours.
She said not enough people are aware that long-term foster care means keeping a child until they are 18 and a good option for those people who for whatever reason can’t have their own kids.
“So many people in Australia who want to adopt look overseas because the waiting list here is so long but don’t realise there are hundreds of kids right here in Sydney looking for someone to love them,” she said.
“Recently I told a friend of mine who found she couldn’t conceive about us taking Jade in long-term and she is now in the process of doing the same.
“Her and her husband now have the opportunity to be parents, something they thought would never happen.
“Our family is so much richer for having taking these kids in and I couldn’t imagine not having them.”
Family Spirit, a foster care and adoption agency, is currently at capacity with 100 children in their care.
CEO Jason Oldridge said the huge numbers of children looking for someone to care for them is nothing short of heartbreaking.
He said they are limited only by the number of carers available, if they could attract 50 more carers, they could place an additional 50 kids in a safe and nurturing environment.
“Quite simply it just breaks your heart,” he said.
“These kids are in this position through absolutely no fault of their own and need patient, caring adults to provide them with a positive family experience.
“Every day we see broadcasts going out to various agencies desperate to find homes for these kids, and sadly quite often we know it will never amount to anything because there just isn’t enough carers to provide them a home.
“Just yesterday a plea went out for a home for siblings aged 3 and 5 who are unable to live with their family, but we had to decline the request, how does that happen?
“I have no idea if and when they will find a family as we just don’t have carers to take them.”
Mr Oldridge said anybody over 18 years of age is eligible to be a foster carer. The decision is a serious one and you need to be ready to work in partnership with Family Spirit to care for children. Foster care can be difficult but it can also be more rewarding than you ever dreamed. For more information you can contact Family Spirit on 131819.