A DESPERATE need for foster carers in Bendigo means some children may be placed away from their community or in residential care.
More children are referred to Anglicare Victoria in Bendigo each week than it has places for.
Acting regional director Michael Oerlemans said the service would like to increase its carer pool by 30-40 households.
About 100 children are in foster care placement in the Bendigo Loddon region on any given night. Anglicare Victoria has around 90 carer families in the region.
Pat is among those carers. She has fostered children for the past 24 years.
She began caring when her own daughters were young, after seeing an newspaper advertisement.
Pat used to take as many as three children at once, aged nought to five years.
But as she says, "When you're older, limitations have to be put in place". And with young-adult daughter Maggie still at home, a baby is the right fit for the family's dynamics.
Now Pat fosters children from birth to a year, one at a time.
It fulfills her love for children, and her talent for nurturing. When a new baby comes, it rules the roost. Pat and Maggie set their routine around it.
Seeing a baby grow and develop is incredibly rewarding.
"With a baby it's watching them gain your trust and become confident and reach their milestones," Pat said.
"And when they go, I feel like they've had a really good start. And whatever decision is made for them, they go away with those abilities, and that's really rewarding for me, because more often than not they come in and they need a lot of help."
Mr Oerlemans said a foster care placement could be life changing.
All foster caring required was someone who was prepared to put in some time, to open their home and their heart, he said.
"It makes a big difference. These children can go from very unstable, disruptive, chaotic circumstances to having a period of time with a stable loving family," Mr Oerlemans said.
"It means that they can have really a therapeutic period of time with a solid loving family which they might not have had for some time."
Mr Oerlemans encouraged anyone interested in fostering children to approach Anglicare, without feeling it would put them under any obligation.
Anglicare trains foster carers, and provides a case manager for each carer.
"It really is very much a partnership between ourselves and the carers," Mr Oerlemans said.
"From our point of view if people are contemplating caring we would really like them just to talk to us. There will be no obligation, and we won't be pressuring people who aren't ready."
For Pat, foster caring has been a chance to give back to the community.
It's even grown Pat's own family. Daughter Maggie came to Pat when she was just two days old, and has been with her ever since.
And Pat's influence has come full circle. Maggie plans to study childcare.
Growing up in a house full of children, she's spend much of her life helping to look after them.
"It's been fantastic. It makes me happy inside. I get excited when we get a phone call. Each time mum gets a phone call she says, 'We'll take it'," Maggie said.
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