Raising four children and working as a mental health nurse would be enough to keep most people busy, but for superstar solo parent Terrie, she felt she still had an interest and capacity to give more.
"Foster caring was something I'd wanted to do for a long time, but I think it was the fear of the unknown that put me off," Terrie recalls. "Then a friend of mine became a foster carer and seeing her little girl flourish, that really got the ball rolling.
"Five years on and Terrie has now provided out-of-home-care to eight children, ranging from three to 15 years old. Like most children she has looked after, her first was an emergency placement – a nine-year-old boy.
Terrie explained to her biological children why the young boy was staying with them and was reassured by how positive her kids were about the introduction of foster children to their family. However, while they were eager to help their first placement settle in, it was a somewhat confronting experience.
"I just knew it was time, his Mum had done a lot of work to get there and it was the right thing to do. We're still in contact though."
"He turned up with just two grey plastic bags of gear," said Terrie. "My eldest son was about 14 years old at the time and was looking for the little guy's stuff to bring it inside... I had to explain to him that buddy, that's it. He was just gobsmacked – it was a really big eye opener for him that not everyone has what we have."
From that experience onwards, Terrie says her son developed great compassion for the boy in her care, taking him under his wing during his brief placement. Years later the family crossed paths with the boy. "He ran up to my son and said, 'you're the best foster brother I've add' – it was just beautiful," she says.
The positive influence on Terrie's biological children isn't the only surprise that foster caring has brought to her life. Terrie's approach to out-of-home care has increasingly involved working with the child's parents, with three of her eight placements now successfully restored to their families.
"If the circumstances are right, restoration is the primary purpose of why I'm doing this – to help get these children back home where they belong," explains Terrie. "That's the goal and I was really surprised by how encouraging Life Without Barriers are about developing that relationship between foster carers and parents. It's not the story you usually hear."
Terrie's most recent placement was a 3-year-old boy who was restored to his mother, thanks to an excellent working relationship between the two.
"We were on the same page, we wanted the same outcome for the little fella, so we worked together by talking," says Terrie of the boy's mother. "She met my children and she was invited to dinner, just like she invited us to hers... keeping those lines of communication and trust open."
As time progressed and the boy began to split his time between Terrie and his mother, Terrie was mindful to manage expectations to help reunite them.
"I was always careful with my language, saying things like 'you're going home to Mum tonight' or 'you're sleeping over at ours tonight' – I wanted him to always know where he was from," says Terrie, stressing the importance of making sure he always felt wanted, wherever he was.
"He was a beautiful child, he got on really well with my eldest daughter – she'd found this bedtime Mozart music for kids, so whenever he got upset she'd just play his songs and hold his hand and he'd calm down – it was a really special little bond."
However, as Terrie explains, eventually it was time for him to go home. "I just knew it was time, his Mum had done a lot of work to get there and it was the right thing to do. We're still in contact though," she adds. "We even dropped around the other day with cupcakes so we could all catch up. It was great to see them both."
Reflecting on the past five years since becoming a carer, Terrie remains thrilled she began her foster care journey, encouraging anyone else who is capable to also consider it.
"Sure, there are challenging days where I question why I got into foster caring, but I always go to bed knowing the answer - that I'm doing the right thing, that I'm making a real difference," says Terrie.
"I truly believe that every child deserves a fair go, a place to call home and feel loved, and for those of us who are able to provide something, we should be working together to achieve that."
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