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Years of Love: Foster Carer shares joy of helping young people in need 

  • Perspectives
A middle-aged woman holds a baby to her chest and smiles to someone off-camera. They're in a park or bush land.

Mercy Community foster carer recognised for 59 years of continuous service, providing care for children and teens across two states.

Long-time foster carer Lis has led an inspirational life. 

She has spent 59 years as a foster carer, giving unconditional love and guidance, and advocating for hundreds of children and teenagers, at their greatest time of need while caring for her own growing family. 

“I have five children, three by birth and two adopted and I have nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren,” she said.  

I have fostered hundreds of children. I just didn’t keep count last century, but I have recorded 75 this century!

Her dedication as a foster carer is an amazing achievement, and she is a shining light at a time when the number of foster carers is declining but the need has never been greater. 

But for Lis, who appears to take everything in her stride with an optimistic spirit and much laughter, not taking on a child in need of a home when she had the capacity to do so, was never an option. 

“I have fostered hundreds of children. I just didn’t keep count last century, but I have recorded 75 this century! I do know I experienced a huge number of odd socks – I swear my washing machine was the best made (for) eating so many socks!” she laughed. 

Her calling to become a foster carer began in January 1964, when she lived in regional New South Wales with her husband. 

“My husband worked in a building shared by “The Welfare” (DOCS). Over time, he heard of the need for OHC Out of Home Care, thus he volunteered we could adopt or foster. We had both known families in our childhood who fostered and had adopted. It seemed “very normal” to both of us,” she said. 

“Very soon we were blessed with a young boy. He was later reunified to his family. A very loved and cherished little boy. However, after moving to Sydney in 1965 we saw a large picture of a beautiful toddler on the front page of The Sun Newspaper with the caption “CAN YOU GIVE HIM A HOME?” – we said YES! 

“They later placed a baby instead! He lived with us until he was 4 years old. We moved to Queensland, and he came to us each school holiday and later, when he transitioned from care, he too moved to Queensland.  

“I am his Mum, and we are his only family. That baby is 58 this year!” 

“We commenced fostering boys 0 – 5 years in New South Wales. In Queensland, we went slap bang into teenage boys after our best friends were killed in an accident. We were looking after their foster children at the time. Then we heard the foster children’s mother had died a few days before. 

“Fostering is not a smooth ride!  

“They kept placing boys … and, when I finally asked for “someone in a dress”, they replied: “I thought you only took boys!” 

Over the years, Lis has cared for children and teens without parents or guardians able and or willing to care for them for many reasons. 

“We have fostered sibling groups, pre-adopt bubs, special needs adoption fostering. A lot of my placements have had many challenging behaviours. I mainly take primary placements so often keep in touch over the years. I enjoy reunification and work with the children and young people families.”

How has fostering changed over the years? 

“Fostering has changed over the years, social media and drugs are so readily available. Domestic violence seems to be more prevalent. Lots of babies are damaged in utero due to drugs, alcohol and D.V. affecting neural pathways.” 

What skills do you need to be a Foster Carer? 

“Skills or abilities needed are many and varied! Good communication and Listening skills. Teamwork. Desire to learn and up skill, patience and determination, the ability to advocate, to role model, to nurture and heal. To have and show respect! The ability to eat humble pie every now and then. Above all resilience and a good sense of humour is essential!” 

Do you have a top parenting tip for new foster carers? 

“My top parenting tip, always consider “what is in the child’s best interest?” Then advocate! 

“Each day brings rewards and challenges – enjoy the rewards! Learn through the challenges! Do the best you can! Ask for help when the road is too rough. Take care and be gentle on yourself!”