“Fostering was not a big drama. It just meant there were more kids around the dining table at night,” says Amanda. As a teenager, Amanda was quite used to coming home to a house full of children. Her mother, Helen, ran a family day care at their home in Sydney’s west so she was used to seeing little ones playing with toys, laughing and running around the living room. So when Helen and David decided to foster, Amanda didn’t think it was going to be much different. “It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I was used to little kids being around and really, I was a typical teenager, self absorbed and into my own thing so what mum and dad wanted to do was fine if I didn’t have to be too involved,” she remembers. “But on another level, I knew this was a good thing to do, that there were kids out there who needed love and attention that couldn’t be found at home but they could get it here, with mum and dad.” She soon realised her family was providing more than attention, clean clothes and food – their home was a safe haven from abuse and neglect. “This realisation came pretty quickly. Mum and dad worked hard to make these kids feel safe.” She laughs as she recalls the six-seater table in the dining room. “We had to have dinner in shifts. My brother and I would marshal the little ones to the table. Mum had the plates lined up and we took them around and then shepherded the kids into the bathroom and got them cleaned up. Once they were sorted, we’d get to eat.” “And the beds!” she recalls. “There were about 10 beds in the house. We had pull-out cots ready in case there were children who had to come to us on an emergency basis for a night or two.” There were plenty of sweet children, some who were ‘strange’ and others who were plain ‘high voltage.’ “I got really fond of one little brother and sister and loved cuddling them. I missed them when they left. That’s the hard part of having foster brothers and sisters, knowing they won’t be with you forever. And I used to feel for my mother when she put all this time and attention into the kids and then they would go.” The family later adopted two of the boys who came into their care. “Richard and Bradly are my brothers and they are just great,” she says simply. Amanda thinks foster sisters and brothers can play a crucial role in helping foster children adjust to their new home. “We can become mentors, we can be surrogate brothers and sisters who play with them, give them a cuddle when they are sad and help them to settle at home and school.” In looking back, Amanda says the experience of being a foster sister was both rewarding and educational. “I would say that I probably gained a greater level of maturity and understanding through learning about the difficulties other children face.” Amanda is now 32, married and raising two boys, aged eight and four. And she is going to take a leaf out of her parents’ book and start fostering with the non-government agency, Anglicare. “My parents have definitely influenced me in this direction,” she says. “I admire that they took children who badly needed a loving home to come and live with us.” She hopes to foster a little girl long term. “My fingers are crossed about what I’ll get. Let’s just say I’m hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” she laughs.