FOSTER carer Donna Maisey (54) is raising a little girl with cerebral palsy at a time when many parents would savour the idea of an empty nest.
The Mundaring mother said that with her daughters grown up, the time was right to do something she had thought about for many years.
“My only regret is I wish I’d fostered children 20 years ago,” she said. “Caring for children is keeping me young and bringing out the best in me; I’m a healthier and happier person,” she said.
“I’ve always had a connection with children and when I was young I wanted to work in child care.”
But her father did not want a daughter who suffered ill health to travel five days a week from the family home in Northam to study in Perth.
“I had kidney problems and I guess he was protective,” she said. “I think having health problems has made me more resilient, more determined in life.
“I’ve been around people with disabilities long enough to know they also have awesome abilities,” she said.
“My dad had polio when he was 14 years old and so I’ve grown up with a father who found ways to adapt to his disability and who managed to build two houses.
“I’m trying to instil in the little girl in my care to never give up, to keep trying and not to accept limitations.”
Mrs Maisey said she stayed with her ward in hospital for two nights before bringing her home.
“She was 18 months old but was like a newborn baby. She was barely moving and did not utter a sound… she had been badly neglected and had missed many health appointments,” she said.
Under the care of her new foster ‘nanna’, the little girl was assessed and has attended many appointments with specialists at Princess Margaret Hospital.
The two-year-old girl is developmentally delayed and needs to attend follow-up appointments most days of the week at a centre in Midland.
“Hopefully we can catch up to where she should be,” Mrs Maisey said. “Every day, we do stretching exercises and play together; it’s amazing what she is doing now.
“She is crawling around the house and playing with her toys, and she even speaks a few words; she is a sociable little girl with so much potential.”
Mrs Maisey became a foster carer two years ago, eventually giving up a job as a hospital receptionist to devote more time to caring for children.
“I get so much satisfaction from helping little people who need a stable, loving and protective home,” she said.
She completed a Department of Communities training course over six weeks, during which time she learnt how to identify and manage signs of stress and trauma in children.
Of the 380 children currently in care in the Midland district, 200 are Aboriginal children who, wherever possible, are cared for by indigenous relatives or carers.
The Department of Communities will host another information session on foster care from 10am to noon, on October 19 at Cale House in Midland.
Midland District director Lucy Davies said the department was looking for committed people willing to open their hearts and homes to care for children and young people in need.
“At our information session, we will run through what it’s like to be a foster carer, and the support and training opportunities available,” she said.
“Foster carers come from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic groups, and can be single men or women, married or same-sex couples, with or without children, or young or old.”