MURRYLANDS woman Hieke decided over a decade ago her mission in retirement would be to nurture infants in her home.
Today, the South Australian resident's walls are adorned with the faces of close to 40 babies she has nursed, providing a safe, stable and caring environment, often from birth to the age of three months and sometimes longer.
The contributions of Hieke and more than 170 other individuals and couples who open their homes and hearts to children in need, as part of a network of foster carers across eastern regional South Australia run by Anglican Community Care (ac.care), is being highlighted for Foster and Kinship Carers Week (September 8-15).
Hieke became a foster carer after a television news program highlighting the needs of abandoned babies affected by foetal alcohol syndrome captured her attention.
Hieke's foster care journey, supported by her husband Harry, started after ac.care's rigorous six month assessment process for new carers with the arrival of siblings aged one and two in their home.
Over time, Hieke has found caring for infants for up to three months is the best match for her lifestyle and she has sometimes welcomed a second baby into her home for emergency care while nurturing another longer term.
"My ac.care support worker was here and mentioned there was a four week old baby and the carer had become unavailable and they might have to go into a hotel at four weeks old, but I said 'not as long as I have two arms, two legs, room, clothes and bottles - if you can't find anybody else, call me', so I cared for two babies during a short time."
This is particularly intense considering the babies in Hieke's care have often been affected in the womb by drugs and alcohol.
"They are in your arms much more than a normal baby, which you would usually feed and clean, then put back to sleep," Hieke said.
Her mission has clearly made a difference in many lives, and Hieke feels she still has much more love to give as well as a passion for encouraging other people to join ac.care's network of foster carers.
"Even if you have a baby or child for a week in emergency care it is worth it because it saves them from going somewhere like a hotel and the love you get back from those kids is worth it," she says.
If you would like to know more about becoming a foster carer and helping meet the needs of children in care in your area, email email@example.com or call (08) 8531 4900.
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The story 'The love you get back is all worth it' says foster carer Hieke first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.