Becoming a foster mother was an easy decision for Merinda Taylor.
The Goulburn resident of 30 years readily acknowledges the challenges but she says the rewards are much greater.
Eight years ago, she decided to do what she had always wanted. She said it was an opportunity she threw herself into after separating from her husband.
"I truly hate to think what would have happened to these beautiful children had I not decided to step up and foster," she said.
Ms Taylor said she had always considered fostering, especially given her work at the time as a Family Day Care educator and in respite care.
One day she received a phone call asking her to look after a five-year-old girl from one of the families in care. The girl's placement had broken down and she wouldn't go to anyone other than Ms Taylor.
"She never left," Ms Taylor told The Post.
"At the time I didn't have any training as a foster carer but that's what started me off. After that, I gave up my job and decided to do fostering fulltime."
That youngster is now very much part of the family, which also includes Ms Taylor's own three grown up children.
Over the years she has taken in children on short-term placements, including a two-day-old boy straight from hospital, who remains with her.
Today she has two girls, aged 15 and five, and two six-year-old boys under her long-term care.
Ms Taylor said there had been great rewards along the way, including the time a young boy who had come to her as a frightened child showing no emotion, turned to her for comfort.
"I will never forget the moment he grazed his arm in a supermarket and gave me a hug, crying. It was the first emotion I'd ever seen him show, people around me had no idea what a milestone this was," she said.
But there had also been challenges. Ms Taylor said it was important to be practical and not believe you could "fix" broken childhoods just through love and care.
"The truth is that they can come from challenging backgrounds and you can't always fix them but you can support them and provide a safe place," she said.
"Every child has different needs and it's important to work with the agency and case worker to understand those...You don't have to be a superhero.
"...I'd say to anyone doing this to take every positive because it is those positives that help the kids."
Ms Taylor is one of many people taking on the role. But agency, My Forever Family, says there's still a "critical shortage" of foster carers, with 600 in NSW alone required to support the number of children living in out of home care.
They are especially needed for upper primary school and high school children. A spokesperson said 32 per cent of children living in out-of-home care were aged between 10 and 14 years.
My Forever Family is holding a Roadshow at the Goulburn Soldiers Club on Thursday, December 5 across two sessions.
"We understand the need for continued training for foster and kinship carers and guardians, and work with authorised trainers to provide free, accessible training to all registered carers across the state on a regular basis," the agency's NSW spokesperson and Adopt Change CEO, Renée Carter said.
The agency will conduct two sessions at the club on December 5; training for carers and facilitated support will be held from 11.30am to 2.30pm, and an information session for prospective carers from 5pm to 7pm.
For more information and registration, visit https://www.myforeverfamily.org.au/
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