Amy’s mother got really sick when she was two, her father was absent and her grandparents took her in for a couple of years. But it all got too hard and without other extended family, Amy had to go into foster care.

Now 24, the medical sciences student who grew up in Goulburn talks glowingly of her time with Chris and Ian, who fostered her for several years and then formally adopted her when she was 13.

“I was happy to sign the adoption papers,” she says. “It was a close, loving family. They have a daughter, Cortney, who is five months younger than me and she became my best friend as well as my sister. I love all my siblings.”

She remembers settling quickly into the household and it was like she had always been there. There was no stigma about being a foster child. “Chris would always introduce me to people as her daughter, Amy. People would be surprised though, because I’m Asian and of course, Chris and Ian are Australian. So that raised eyebrows a bit.”

If anything, she was sometimes bullied in the playground for being Chinese, but never for being a foster child, she says.

She loves children today and thinks that is because she grew up with loving siblings and the many foster children that Chris and Ian took in (380 at last count).

She also keeps in touch with some of her foster siblings, especially one young woman with Down Syndrome, whom she will regularly meet for a coffee or trip to the movies. “We are very close.”

When Chris had to spend several weeks with one of the foster children at Sydney’s Westmead hospital, it was Amy who took over the running of the household. “I learned to do the laundry and how to cook. Poor Ian was the guinea pig.”

Her parents encouraged Amy to do well at school. She will graduate with a medical sciences degree from Charles Stuart University this year. She plans to work as an EEG technician, using equipment that helps diagnose abnormal conditions affecting the brain, like epilepsy.

“They are so proud because I am the first of their children to go to university. I think mum is more excited about going to the graduation ceremony than I am,” she laughs. “And then we are going to have a huge dinner to celebrate at home.”

Christmas, Easter and birthdays are big celebration occasions in their household, which Amy has always appreciated. Amy notes that many foster children keep in touch and send cards and Christmas letters. “We get asked to weddings too.”

Amy recently spent 11 months teaching English in several schools in Qiqihar, the second largest city in North-East China. She is proud of the fact that several of her business studies students learned enough English to travel overseas in confidence. She also got to see the amazing ice artwork festival in Harbin and went to the Beijing Olympics.

Amy may return to China one day to learn more about her birth family, who came from Guangzhou, but says she’s not ready for that yet.

For now, it’s time to concentrate on a move to Sydney with her boyfriend and to pursue a job as an EEG technician at one of the hospitals.