Geelong foster agencies are desperately searching for families who can welcome vulnerable children into their homes.
Highton mother of four Abby Walsh signed up as a foster carer in November and has since cared for four children.
The respite carer had been thinking about becoming a carer for a close to a decade before finally taking the plunge.
“My motto is if you can, you should,” Ms Walsh said.
“If you can – do open your home.”
Ms Walsh has four children – aged three to 13 – and said while her home can be “pretty chaotic” it is a welcoming environment for young, vulnerable children in need of care.
“It’s a pretty busy, chaotic household but I also know it’s a really warm and safe environment,’ Ms Walsh said.
“When you’re a child it’s nice to have other children (to be with) and it’s nice to have a full household that is also well and truly structured.”
Ms Walsh is currently signed up as a respite and emergency carer – meaning she provides relief to permanent carers for short periods or on the weekend.
“It’s been really fulfilling, it’s just been something that has really filled our hearts and something that been coming for so long,” Ms Walsh said.
“It creates that greater level of empathy for people, including the parents.”
Ms Walsh said her own children had adapted really well to sharing their home with foster children.
McKillop Family Services Barwon manager Matthew Lloyd said the number of children needing care was always increasing.
“There is a critical shortage (of carers) across Geelong, Barwon and Australia and every year the number of children that need foster care grows,” Mr Lloyd said.
“As the moment the growth of care needers is far outgrowing the carers.”
Mr Lloyd said children of all ages were in need of carers due to a wide range of reasons including family violence.
He said carers were provided ongoing support by McKillop.
To find out how to become a carer contact 1300 791 677