Foster carers: Our duty to help kids with troubled lives

By Genevieve Helliwell

During the past eight years Tauranga couple Colin and Angela Hardgrave have been foster parents to more than 20 children.
One of the children they currently care for is Angie who came to them from a troubled background when she was 14-years-old.
Mr Hardgrave said Angie had been a part of the family for six years and during that time had grown "into an amazing person and is now doing remarkably well at university".
She was a classic success story of someone who had gone through the foster care system.
"Angie and many others have had very hard lives and if you give them the opportunity to be part of a loving, caring, safe family environment, then they'll go on to succeed," Mr Hardgrave said.
Speaking during Foster Care Awareness Week (November 1-7), Mr Hardgrave said being a foster parent helped children who had come from difficult circumstances the opportunity to reach their potential.
"Every kid should have security, protection and love and some are dealt quite unfortunate and sad circumstances, so it's our responsibility to do something about it," Mr Hardgrave said.
Te Puke couple Sue and Kevin Heath are also foster carers.
In the past 12 years they've cared for about 60 children, both short- and long-term and were recently awarded one of 14 national awards for excellence in foster care.
Mrs Heath said none of it could be possible without support of her family, especially her three older sons.
"We wouldn't do it if they weren't happy but often they're asking us when the next one is coming," she said.
"It's the small things you do that can really change a person's life and it does give you a buzz to know that you've made a difference."
There are 5670 children in foster care in New Zealand, with about 250 foster children in the Tauranga area alone, according to New Zealand Family and Foster Care Federation.
Val Naylor, New Zealand Family and Foster Care central North Island representative, said being a foster carer was "not an easy thing to do".
"It's important their efforts be recognised because they do such amazing things for the kids.

They're very special people and if it wasn't for the caregivers, a lot more kids would be very vulnerable," she said.
Foster Care Awareness Week recognises the hard work and dedication of foster carers around New Zealand.
Representatives from the nine agencies in Tauranga that provide foster care services, as well as foster kids and their carers, take part in the annual'Round the Mount Relay' on December 3. The celebration at the base of Mount Maunganui will run from 4pm-6.30 pm.
People interested in becoming a foster carer can contact one of the follo wing agencies: NZ Family and Foster Care Federation, Western Bay of Plenty Association; Child, Youth and Family; Ngati Ranginui; Ngaiterangi; Homes of Hope; Open Home Foundation; Idea Services; Impact Tauranga (Ardnt House); Footsteps.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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