'Caring' mum celebrates Mother's Day

By Amy McGillivray

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A Pongakawa woman will be spoilt by her three children this Mother's Day, but many of the countless others she has welcomed into her home will be thinking of her.

Amanda Wagstaff, 32, and her partner of eight years, Gary Roberts, 31, have been caregivers for Child, Youth and Family (CYF) since they moved from Papamoa to their Pongakawa lifestyle block four years ago.

They started by looking after a young boy with ADHD every second weekend and it snowballed from there.

Since then, as many as 100 children have come and gone through their home some staying only for a night and others up to two years.

The couple currently care for a 10-year-old, who has lived with them for almost a year, and often have other children in need of emergency care during the weekends.

They have two spare beds and have had up to four extra children staying with them at once, in an effort to keep siblings together.

Looking after kids in need has always been Ms Wagstaff's passion.

She did her first CYF caregiver certificate when she was 18 and has worked in day care centres, after school programmes, and as a home-based carer and nanny.

"I've always been wanting to do it, ever since I was a teenager. I've always wanted to help kids out and just make a difference," she said.

"It's just so rewarding. You do see the difference you make. They can come in really withdrawn and sad and you can just see the difference, even over just a couple of days or a weekend."

The rural lifestyle was ideal for most of the children who came into their care, she said.

"I think the animals are a key to helping some children relax, open up and to heal. They can be a great stress relief for these kids ... they all love cuddles just as much as the children."

Being a CYF caregiver had its challenges but Ms Wagstaff said there were plenty of ups and few downs.

Having fun was always the best remedy, she said.

Ms Wagstaff's own children enjoyed having other children through their home.

Her eldest, Faybian, 11, said it was fun having other boys about his age staying with the family.

As far as mums went, Ms Wagstaff was a good one, he said.

"She's caring. She's a cool mum."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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