The phone suddenly shrieks in the middle of the night. It would be disturbing for some people, but not for Barb in south-western Sydney, who is accustomed to receiving phone calls at 3.00 am.

The calls are always from caseworkers seeking a bed for a child or young person who’s suddenly had to leave home for safety reasons.

The phone suddenly shrieks in the middle of the night. It would be disturbing for some people, but not for Barb in south-western Sydney, who is accustomed to receiving phone calls at 3.00 am.

The calls are always from caseworkers seeking a bed for a child or young person who’s suddenly had to leave home for safety reasons.

A foster carer who has specialised in immediate care for the past 30 years, Barb, 68, is accustomed to rising in the dark to get the teapot ready for the caseworker and cut a slice of pie for the youngster who needs a bit of normalcy after a traumatic night.

Barb became interested in foster care after watching a friend of her mother’s ‘leading children around on a string’ many years ago. When her own children left home, Barb and her husband Geoffrey decided to open up their home to foster children because they could see there was a growing need for carers.

She recalls her first foster child with great fondness: “She taught me a few interesting swear words along the way, but she is now in her forties, happy, and successfully raising a family of her own.”

Since then, Barb has welcomed more than 500 children and young people of all ages into her home, offering the full gamut of care from immediate and respite to short and long-term.

The immediate care work is something she thinks is paramount. “Those are the kids who have the most desperate need – where will they sleep that night?”

Barb mostly fosters school-age children and teens, and is currently caring for four kids long-term. An adopted son, 23, currently lives at home as well. “Many people are wary and would prefer the babies, but I like helping the older ones,” she says.

Barb believes carers can come from any walk of life. “What you need for the job is patience, dedication and a good relationship with yourself.

Fostering is not easy and love isn’t enough – not with the baggage some of these children carry. So be realistic about what you can achieve. But if you give love, you’ll make a difference to these kids and probably get it back.”

In addition to fostering, Barb runs support groups for other carers in Sydney’s south-west, offering a friendly, informal venue for carers to meet, share tips and advice, obtain support and talk about their experiences as foster carers.