CARINE foster carer Fay Alford has welcomed more than 90 children into her heart and home over the past 30 years.
Now the WA Foster Care Association director, Mrs Alford said WA needed more foster carers than ever.
“There is a huge shortage of foster carers – we have nearly 5000 children in care in WA,” she said.
“The impact of meth use or any drug use is domestic violence and mental health issues, which makes many people unable to care for their children.”
With a new State Government hoping to amalgamate the Department of Housing and Child Protection and Family Services, Mrs Alford said child protection should be a stand-alone department.
“If they are serious about protecting the State’s most vulnerable children they need to put some money into it, step up and take responsibility for these kids and get the community involved in becoming carers,” she said.
“It should be a stand-alone department and they have not made it that. However, neither had the previous government.”
Mrs Alford said her own experience in care homes as a child inspired her to take on the demanding job of raising her two biological daughters and embrace many children in need.
“I was in care in the mid to late 1950s when I was eight and it wasn’t a great experience back then; it leaves some memories with you,” she said.
“I think anyone considering fostering needs to have a sense of humour and most importantly provide a sense of belonging; it is so important for a child to know they belong somewhere and are important.”
Mrs Alford said having foster children in the home had made her two biological daughters better parents and taught them valuable life lessons.
“It has given them a sense of how life really is out there for |people; how many children are not cared for in the way they had been cared for.
“They have been much more aware than most other kids about what is happening in the community.
“We have also adopted three of our foster children who they call their sisters and brother, they don’t think twice about it; they are their siblings.”
Mrs Alford said it took time for children who had suffered trauma to settle in, which had taught her the value of patience.
“Being a foster carer is about giving a child somewhere safe to be, so they know they are not going to witness screaming, yelling or people running through the house,” she said. “You have to be able to wrap your arms around them and give them that safety… let them find their feet.
“You’re not going to save everybody sadly because some kids slip through the cracks; that is the hardest part.”
As well as her tireless work at the WA Foster Care Association, Mrs Alford is an adviser to the Minister for the Department of Child Protection and Family Support and a board member for Kinship Connections – an initiative to help Aboriginal families heal and reconnect.
Mrs Alford was recently named a finalist in the Community Award for the 2017 Western Australian of the Year, to be announced on June 2.