EVERY month, 43 children in the North East will need foster care.
Only half of those will find a home to take them in.
“It’s not meeting the need,” Upper Murray Family Care’s Jeanine Aughey said.
Those who miss out go to a home in another region, like Shepparton, or could end up in group residential care.
Neither are ideal options for children coming from homes affected by domestic violence, mental illness and other problems.
“They’re already going through the trauma of being moved,” Ms Aughey said.
Wodonga mother Jo Knight can still remember when Talia arrived at her family’s doorstep last year.
They had received a call the day before to tell them a two-month-old needed their help.
“She had a very vacant look, there was no expression and clenched fists. She had that frown line. She was a very unhappy child, a very sad child,” Ms Knight said.
“There was no physical touch, no eye contact, nothing.”
Fifteen months on, Talia, not her real name, is a different baby.
She toddles from person to person with a smile so ready it causes biscuits to crumble from her mouth.
Ms Knight and Talia were at a morning tea in Wodonga to celebrate Upper Murray Care’s 80 foster carers as part of national Foster Care Week.
Ms Knight smiles as giggles and coos escape in a trail across the room as Talia bumps in to people.
“She’s the life of the party,” she said.
Almost three years ago, Ms Knight, a mental health worker, and her husband John Knight, a paramedic, decided to become foster carers.
They wanted their then three-year-old Harry to grow up with other children.
“We didn’t want him to be an only child,” Ms Knight said.
The impact on Harry was their biggest worry so Ms Knight took a year off to care for Harry and their first foster children.
She told him their mums and dads were sick and could not look after them but eventually, they would be better and his short-terms siblings would go back.
“He loves these little kids in and out and he’s put in an order for a boy,” Ms Knight said.
“His school teacher pulled me aside and told me ‘I can’t believe how much empathy he’s got for children’.”
The couple have cared for seven babies so far, some who come straight from hospital, and the pain of letting them go has been the hardest part.
“We have to keep in mind they’re going home ... we’re not their parents,” Ms Knight said.
“I’ve been told you shouldn’t get attached, but there’s no such thing, you can’t give good care when you’re not attached.”
Ms Aughey said people “from all walks of life” could become carers for children between the ages of 0 and 18.
It’s a chance, she said, to make a difference to a child’s life.
An “open door” information night will be held on Wednesday from 4pm to 7pm at Upper Murray Family Care in Stanley Street. For more information phone (02) 6055 8000.