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Did you know that every year 5,500 Victorian children need temporary homes with community volunteers?

I became a foster carer in December 1997. In the past 18 months I have had 9 placements, of 1 to 4 children, aged 3 to 12 years, for stays of 6 hours to 5 months in duration. I have fostered 6 girls and 7 boys.

I'm 32 years old, single and work full time. I'm able to provide foster care because I have the support of a large family and wide circle of friends. I utilise services such as before and after school care, school holiday programs and crèches (not to mention baby-sitting offered by friends and family).

Being a foster carer is tremendously rewarding. To be a foster carer you need to be able to provide a warm bed and should have an inexhaustible capacity to love children. There is a selection process and ongoing training. There are many kinds of foster care, from temporary emergency and respite (generally weekend) care to longer term reception care (up to 2 years). You have a say with regard to the number of children, age, sex and length of placement. There is some financial support, although this is limited.

If you can't provide accommodation for a foster child, you can still help in other ways. Be tolerant of children - many haven't been raised with the same values or even basic care and support which you and your children may take for granted. Be supportive of parents - your support may make it possible for a family at risk to flourish.

If you would like to learn more about foster care, feel free to send me an email, or contact the Children's Welfare Association of Victoria on 1800 013 088.

Sandra Creaner

PS. You know you're a foster carer when…your house resembles a Salvation Army depot!