Thanks for caring
Even though she had two children of her own, Cobram’s Wilma Kay had always felt she had another parenting role within her — for foster children.
She simply loved the idea of taking responsibility for a needy child and giving them the love and attention they craved.
But after the death of her husband, Wilma was left to raise her children solo and even though her dream was not forgotten, for years it was very much on the backburner.
However, Wilma was determined to make a difference.
And as soon as she had the opportunity she pushed ahead with her goal and at 42 she received her first foster child.
It was tough going in the early days for Wilma, literally thrown in the deep end when confronted with the reality of reversing the years of neglect her first foster child had suffered.
‘‘It was an incredibly daunting experience,’’ she said.
‘‘A seven-year-old boy was brought to my house with nothing but the clothes on his back. He had been sleeping outside in a pipe.
‘‘Understandably, he was quite unsettled and aggressive.’’
While many would shy away from the challenge of raising a neglected child, Wilma took it all in her stride.
She nurtured the boy with the help of her two children and showed him the love and affection that had been lacking in his life.
‘‘My boys were into cycling so we introduced him to that and he really liked it,’’ Wilma said.
‘‘He loved it and even won a trophy. He was very pleased about that.’’
That seven-year-old boy was the first of more than 100 children Wilma has cared for in her 35 years as a foster parent.
And the now 77-year-old will be recognised for her outstanding service when she receives the Selina Sutherland Award for an Outstanding Foster Carer at Berry Street’s annual celebrations in Melbourne.
Berry Street’s Janene Ingram said Wilma was renowned for getting children involved in social events.
‘‘She promotes social wellbeing and involves children in things like Little Athletics, soccer and basketball,’’ she said.
‘‘She increases the self-esteem of these young people and is excellent at identifying developmental needs.
‘‘Wilma prides herself on providing small life lessons that these children need.’’
Although extremely surprised to be receiving an award, Wilma said it was a big honour to be recognised for what she does.
‘‘It is a very rewarding thing to do,’’ she said.
‘‘I love seeing the improvements the kids make and how they socialise and grow to become happy and content.
‘‘Someone has to look after these kids and care for them and love them. I couldn’t imagine not having kids around. Life would be dull without them.’’
Janene said there was demand for foster carers across the state and Berry Street was always open to people wanting to make a difference.
Thanks for caring: Cobram foster carer Wilma Kay with former AFL footballer and Bali Bombing survivor Jason McCartney.