TRISH Horstall will never forget the smile on the face of her foster child while he swam in a hotel pool on a family holiday in Queensland.
"It was just great to see him having such a good time. It was the joy of doing something that I would usually take for granted," the Wantirna foster carer said.
Many people do not realise the significant impact foster carers have on the children they care for and that sometimes that includes the foster carers themselves.
A new book produced by Anchor — an independent organisation managing foster carers in Knox and parts of Yarra Ranges — acknowledges the dedication of foster carers by telling their stories.
Anchor volunteer co-ordinator Janet Halsall interviewed 40 carers to compile the book which she said would make people realise the influence foster carers had on a child's life now and in the future.
One carer's story about why she became involved in fostering is a highlight of the book, Ms Halsall says. The carer's aunt — a foster carer living in America — opened her front door one day to a man in army uniform.
She didn't recognise him until he said: "When I was three you took me in and I stayed until I was eight, then I was returned to my birth parents and I have been in and out of foster since. I never really had a proper home anywhere else but here."
The soldier told his former carer he was leaving to fight overseas. There was nobody on the planet to care if he came back or not, but he wanted her to know how much their time together meant.
"Of course, the aunt was overcome with emotion and they talked and exchanged contact details," Ms Halsall said. The day after the niece heard that story, she called Anchor and applied to be a foster carer.
The aim of the book is to encourage other families to open their home and heart to children desperately needing care.
"It's good to get it out there that we're not supermums, we're just normal mums. People ask, 'how can you do it', but it's not that hard," Ms Horstall said. "When you've got kids already, you just find more time. If you're doing it anyway, it's not such a struggle."
Belinda Henwood-Jones has four children of her own but decided to become a foster carer 18 months ago. She has been caring for a nine-month old boy since he was seven days old.
For her family, it's not just the child that benefits from the experience. "By being a foster carer, I am also teaching my kids that it is important to help other people," Ms Henwood-Jones said.
Ms Halsall said the secondary impact of foster caring was not something she was expecting to hear so much about.
"The positive impact on the kids, about sharing and how fortunate they are in comparison to others and how it's really an important community role to help those who are not as fortunate was an ongoing theme."
To download the book, go to anchor.org.au.