Fostering community of carers

Unsung heroes: Murray Bridge couple Trevor and Julie Wingard have become foster parents for five children.
Unsung heroes: Murray Bridge couple Trevor and Julie Wingard have become foster parents for five children.

SOME children desperately want to have the latest toy, while others are desperate to seek love, support and a place to call home.

In the Murraylands, about 100 children live with foster families who provide care and encouragement, but others are waiting to find their "forever home". program manager for foster care Bernie Ward said a shortage in local foster carers meant some children had to be taken out of the region.

"It can be tough making a strong commitment to a child who may have a background of trauma or abuse," he said.

"Children need to be in stable homes, loved and cared for with routine.

"If they get that, life outcomes are a lot more positive."

When no foster placement is available, children live in residential care staffed by trained workers or are placed in commercial care in apartments where rotating shift workers stay with children.

It was seeing children in that type of environment that encouraged Trevor and Julie Wingard to become foster parents four years ago, despite having three adult children of their own.

"I was working at a 24/7 emergency accommodation and I fell in love with this little boy and I convinced Trevor to take him in and give him a stable home," Mrs Wingard said.

The Wingards now have five foster children aged between three and 15.

"We've had our ups and downs with eight kids but I've never regretted it because I know we're giving the kids a future," she said.

When the children first moved in, each had their own issues but a steady routine has helped these children grow from strength-to-strength, even planning for their future.

According to Mr Wingard, Families SA was initially reluctant to let them care for five kids but when a placement could not be found for their eldest child, the Wingards stepped in and welcomed her to the family.

"We've built trust with all of them to make them feel part of the family," Mr Wingard said.

"To see the smiles on the kids faces when they do succeed is worth it."

Foster carers for Aboriginal children and children older than 10 are currently needed. encourages anyone considering foster care, even if it is just one weekend a month helping with respite or emergency care to contact Therese Holding on 8532 6303.