Thanks for car­ing

The Cobram Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By David Rak

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.

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