Hearing the need for foster carers in the Bendigo area cemented Bek and Leigh Stevens' decision to open their home to children in need.
Anglicare Victoria receives more requests for placements in the central Victorian region than it has carers able to take the children on, and as a result, is searching for more people to sign up to become foster carers.
On any given night, about 100 children in the region will be in a foster care placement.
Bek and Leigh learnt of the high level of demand when they went to an information session on foster care a few years ago.
After hearing this, Bek said, they "couldn't not do it".
Four of their five children were in school and the youngest was at home, she said, so taking on another young child seemed to be a good fit
About three years ago, they welcomed their first foster child, a four-month-old girl, into their home - the very same day they were approved to become carers.
"It was straight into it, and we haven't stopped since," Leigh said.
That first little girl stayed with the Stevens' for almost two years.
Since then, they've fostered two more babies - one for a few weeks, and another - who still lives with them - for over a year.
They said the first baby was back with her mother, something that was rewarding for them to see, and they have maintained contact with that woman and her child.
"We are just helping out in the short term, while the family is figuring out what's best for them," Bek said.
Anglicare Victoria regional director Francis Lynch said the need for foster carers continued to be a real concern for the organisation.
The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact, Mr Lynch said, resulting in a small number of carers limiting their availability.
"The need, the requests for placements, have been continuing all year... The pressure to have households available for children has just been constant," he said.
Mr Lynch said the pandemic might also result in more children needing foster care, due to the financial impact on families.
He said Anglicare Victoria welcomed prospective carers from all households and backgrounds, so long as the carers were over the age of 21.
"Really, it's about having people who are open to providing a safe, stable, caring environment for a child," Mr Lynch said.
He said there were assessment and training processes, and once a carer had a child placed with them, ongoing contact and support from Anglicare and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Bek and Leigh urged anyone interested in becoming a foster carer to attend an information session.
"We often have people say they couldn't do what we do," Bek said, but added there were lots of options to make foster care work for a particular person or family's situation.
Mr Lynch said even short periods of care - for example, one weekend a month - were helpful, and a lot of requests were for short-term care.
"It's been so rewarding, we're enjoying it so much... It's been a really positive experience for all of us," Bek said.
To find out more on becoming a foster carer, visit the Anglicare Victoria website or call 5440 1100.
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