Fostering an amazing experience
HELEN Dickson is mother to more than 300 children.
In her 30 years as a foster carer she's overcome a mountain of great challenges.
But what's important, she says, is the satisfaction of making a difference in children's lives.
"These children come to us in need of a normal family life. Sometimes they are damaged by what they have seen or felt, but your heart just goes out to them," Mrs Dickson said.
A mother of seven children of her own, Helen and her husband, Alex, have been an institution for young children fleeing troubled, broken and sometimes violent homes.
"It's the most important thing we have done in our lives," Mrs Dickson said.
"One of the children we fostered, our beautiful daughter, came to us as a three-month-old child, and after caring for her we adopted her and now she is 29 years of age.
"To see a child achieve great things after starting their lives with such a sad beginning is an amazing thing," she said.
Speaking out about her experiences as a foster carer this week, Mrs Dickson is helping the department of community services to recruit caring foster parents.
The Coffs Coast has a major shortage of carers.
Carers are needed to perform long and short-term care as well as respite care assisting other foster carers.
"Worst of all is that there are more and more children needing care," Mrs Dickson said.
"I would say there are about 100 children in care here locally at the moment.
"Because of the growing need for carers I encourage anyone thinking about it to do so, to act now and contact Human Services, the department, which used to known as DOCS, and attend the information sessions that are coming up in Coffs Harbour.
"I can say from first hand experience it is the most important thing you'll ever do in your life, being able to help children to strive for their best in life is a miracle in itself," she said.