Fostering children with love
IN THE past 10 years Jeffrey and Sandra Ahern have taken in 123 vulnerable children.
With a smile, a hug and a kind word, they have played their part in the remarkable network of foster carers who help to rebuild young lives shattered by violence and neglect.
And they'd like you to join them because there's an ever-growing need for people prepared to give a child a chance.
The Aherns will tell you they are nothing special.
Jeffrey works for QR National and Sandra is a stay-at-home mum who keeps her four-bedroom Gracemere house spick and span.
"We had three children of our own, but we had friends who were foster carers and we were amazed at the number of youngsters who needed care," said Sandra, remembering the day the couple took the plunge and decided to help.
"Our youngest was eight."
After a number of short-term placements, the Aherns were asked to give a babe in arms a temporary home.
"We were told it would be for six days.
"That was 10 years ago last October and within a year we got her younger sister to come to live with us too," Sandra said.
"The girls make us very proud.
"They know that we are their carers and that their real parents are elsewhere.
"But they call us Mum and Dad and the plan is that they will be with us until they are 18."
But caring for the girls full-time isn't the full extent of their commitment.
"We still take children in emergencies. It can be anything from an overnight stay to a week or two," she said.
"Our own children have left home, but they thought it was fantastic when we had babies in the house."
Sandra said they get so much satisfaction being able to help by giving a child a safe home for as long as necessary.
"A lot of the children are happy and bright and don't give us any problems.
"It's not always violence or neglect that has caused them to be with us.
"It could be their parent has been in an accident or fallen ill," she said.
"But we do see some who are withdrawn and fearful.
"All kids are different.
"You really need to earn their trust."
HOW TO HELP
To inquire about becoming a foster or kinship carer, call 1300 550 877
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.