'The rewards are huge': Foster carers encourage others to take the step

This is sponsored content for Stretch-A-Family

For anyone thinking of fostering a child, April Gallagher has just two words: do it.

Mrs Gallagher and her husband Anthony* have been providing a loving home and support for foster children for five years.

In that time, the Sydney couple have cared for five children ranging in ages from four-years-old to teenagers.

"It is just the most rewarding thing you can do," said Mrs Gallagher.

"The love and absolute pride you feel when you see the difference you've been able to make in these kids' lives is huge."

The Gallaghers have provided different kinds of care for children including short-term, emergency, respite and long-term.

Today they are in the process of gaining guardianship of two sisters who came into their care almost four years ago, the youngest when she was just four and the older, a teen.

Mrs Gallagher said she was always passionate about becoming a foster carer, having experienced family trauma herself growing up.

"I just wanted to make sure that some children who otherwise might not have had that sense of belonging could have that," she said.

"Every child deserves that. It's just so important that they have someone to help and guide them, to protect them.

"These young people can get so lost if they don't have that place, that stable home that they can come back to, an anchor."

After the Gallaghers made the decision to follow their hearts and go ahead with fostering, April began researching the process and was soon on the phone to Marrickville-based out-of-home care agency Stretch-A-Family.

The support and training the couple have received from Stretch-A-Family has been "incredible", she said.

"You feel very supported," she said. "There's so much training available and resources and professionals you can tap into, and there is always someone there if you need them."

Stretch-A-Family's permanency support program manager Sharon Gissane said she was in awe of the dedicated foster carers she works with.

"They do an absolutely fabulous job," Ms Gissane said.

"Being able to support a child and help them to heal from the trauma that so many of the children coming in to the system have experienced can be hard work, and we work very hard to support them anyway we can.

"They all have this belief that all children deserve the best and want to give them the opportunity to be the best they can."

There continues to be huge demand for foster carers. In New South Wales alone there are almost 18,000 children and young people in out-of-home care with more than 2,000 new children entering care every year.

"All agencies are looking for more carers who can make a difference in a child's life," Ms Gissane said.

"Stretch-A-Family welcomes calls from anyone interested in learning more about how they could help - we need carers for emergency, short-term and permanent care.The first step is speaking to one of our team."

Foster carers like the Gallaghers say they have been so glad they took the step.

"There are so many tiny unimaginable joys - the rewards are huge," April said.

"Being a parent is gorgeous anyway but being able to help a child take the suspicion out of their life that people are always going to let them down, and give them the skills they need in life, is so rewarding," she said.

"Seeing the look on my girls' faces when they achieve something, and seeing how far they've come is just glorious. It is a privilege to be able to see a child work towards who they can be."

"Whatever you put in to these children comes back to you 5000 fold."

If you would like to find out more you can contact the team at Stretch-A-Family by calling 02 9569 6933 or head to the website.

*Names have been changed.

This is sponsored content for Stretch-A-Family