The mother of four became a foster carer two years ago and has helped look after 15 children who have needed emergency, respite, short or long-term care.
‘I knew there was a need to help children. It would be fantastic for more foster carers to come on board,’ she said.
In February, Melissa took on her first long-term foster child, a 10-year-old Aboriginal boy who will stay with her family until he is 18.
The boy, who cannot be named, has fitted in ‘beautifully’ with the family and gets along really well with Melissa, her husband and four biological children aged nine, 15, 17 and 18.
‘Basically they come into your home and you treat them like one of your own. You make sure their needs are met socially, make sure they’re safe, there is a roof over their head and food in their tummy,’ she said.
‘If they need extra care such as speech therapy, it can be arranged.’
Melissa said successful foster parenting relied on boundaries being put in place and ensuring all children, biological and non-biological, were treated equally.
She strongly believed in the need for Aboriginal children to remain engaged with their own culture and she made sure her foster son had fortnightly visits with his family.
‘I can take him to cultural events, give him books and try and incorporate the Noongar language at home, but because I’m non-Aboriginal, I can’t give him the Aboriginal cultural contact day in and day out,’ she said.