Kirsty and Chris with one of their foster daughters at their family home. Picture: Matt Loxton
Kirsty and Chris with one of their foster daughters at their family home. Picture: Matt Loxton

Carers opening hearts, homes to hundreds of kids

IN Kirsty's family home in Adelaide's northeastern suburbs, there is a wall covered in framed photos of all the children who have passed through the house.

The 51-year-old is a mother of four children, now grown into adulthood or on the cusp, but she has helped to raise a dozen others.

With husband Chris, she has taken in foster children needing emergency care for a couple of weeks or months through to some who have lived with the family for years.

The couple, who did not want their surname published, are among a growing band of foster families going above and beyond by caring for tens or even hundreds of children who need a safe place to call home.

A survey by the peak body for carers revealed 33 households that had offered a home to 20 or more children.

Among those surveyed by Connecting Foster and Kinship Carers SA were three families that had taken in 100 children and eight that had cared for between 50 and 100 young people.

The Child Protection Department has also highlighted examples for The Advertiser, including one woman who has been a foster carer for four decades and helped more than 200 children.

Another had taken in 170 children over 16 years.

Kirsty and Chris with one of their foster daughters at their family home. Picture: Matt Loxton
Kirsty and Chris with one of their foster daughters at their family home. Picture: Matt Loxton

They achieve such feats of generosity by contributing through all forms of foster care - from short-term emergency placements or giving other carers a break by offering respite care, to year-to-year placements or lifelong guardianship of a child from birth.

"We remember each and every one of them," Kirsty told The Advertiser.

"We think about how old they'd be now, we wonder if in 20 years' time we'll hear their name and realise we knew them.

"You never know what their lives are going to be like and where they're going to end up." Kirsty and Chris were approved as foster carers in 2012 after a nine-month application process.

Their sons, aged 17 and 20, live at home with their foster children, aged eight and two, while their older daughters, aged 24 and 25, have moved out.

"Foster parenting is very different to biological parenting," Kirsty said. "There's so much of it that you only learn once you start working with these kids.

"We've had some that have celebrated their first birthday.

"We've had first words and first steps, all of that.

"When you can see that you've just been the bit of glue for three or six months that has given the (birth) family the time to work out what they need to do to have the child return (to them), that's really rewarding."

Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson said she had met a woman who had "opened her home to more than 140 foster children".

There are about 500 children living in state-run homes or emergency housing who "urgently need more family-based carers", she said.

For information about becoming a carer, phone 1300 2 FOSTER or visit fostercare.sa.gov.au



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