"THERE have certainly been moments that have been very tough and there are some times when children have left our care that we've almost had to stand back and take a little bit of a break and regroup.
"But I have never regretted one moment, because every child I have met along the way has been amazing."
That's what Billie Henderson says of the foster caring she and her husband Mark Mason have done over the years.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Veritas House named the couple as the recipients of the Deb Elsley Memorial Award on Tuesday as part of the organisation's Foster Care Week celebrations.
Veritas said the award acknowledges Ms Henderson and Mr Mason's contribution in providing a safe and supportive home to 17 children and young people over the past six years.
The couple started their life as foster carers while living in the Gulf of Carpentaria, when they took a child into their care from a local family that was struggling. There were no local foster or kinship carers in the area.
They became authorised foster carers for the boy and remain close to him today.
"The more children that we cared for, the more we saw the need, and although it can be traumatic, sometimes frustrating working within the system, I think caring for those children day to day is a reward in itself and you get some wonderful, beautiful moments where you are able to see children meet milestones," Ms Henderson said.
"And when children are able to return to family, although difficult as a carer, is amazing."
Ms Henderson recalls a milestone moment with a child when she and her husband were living in Queensland.
"We had a child who did not speak, at all, when he came into our care.
"And the first time we heard him speak was about five weeks after he had been with us and he was sitting in his bedroom with our big, 30-kilo black dog sitting next to him, chatting away."
He was five years old.
Ms Henderson said the best foster care situation is "when you are an extension of their birth family rather than separate".
"I truly believe that every parent loves their child, but some people are unable to meet the needs of caring for their children," she said.
Veritas carer support practitioner Bridget Tracy said Ms Henderson and Mr Mason, in addition to being compassionate carers, "work hard to support other local foster carers, particularly new carers and those experiencing hardship, and have provided advice and guidance to Veritas House on policies and procedures to support the broader carer network".
"Billie has assisted Veritas in the delivery of Shared Lives training to carer applicants in the past year and her reflections on the challenges they have faced, along with the incredible rewards, has both informed and inspired applicants," Ms Tracy said.
The Veritas House Foster Care Week Awards ceremony also saw six foster carers presented with five and 15 year service awards acknowledging their dedication and contribution.
The final event for the week will be an online foster care information session this Thursday, September 17 starting at 6pm.
Veritas says a wide range of carers are required - from respite to emergency, long term to guardianship and adoptive parents.
For more information or to register to attend the information session, contact Lee Purcell on 6332 3882.