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Real life stories
Real life stories from our caregivers
Caregiving is a family tradition for this family, with three generations involved in care.
"I can honestly say hand-on-heart that I don't feel any difference between my birth children and my foster children. I love them all equally," says Andeana, who with her husband Colin has taken guardianship of their four-year-old foster son, along with her three children.
The mum of six is following in the footsteps of her own mother Pam - also known as Nan - who is a mother of five, was a caregiver and now works as a Child, Youth and Family social worker. This mother and daughter team have turned what could have been a sad chapter in the Pilalis family history, into a rich tradition of caregiving.
"My mother was a foster child. She went into care in one of the first foster homes. She had a good home, but she never saw her parents between the ages of four and 15," explains Pam. "So when I was growing up my mother didn't have good attachment. She loved us dearly, but she couldn't put her whole self into raising us."
As a result, Pam had a troubled youth, but turned her life around when she had Andeana. Her firsthand experience of fostering was what drew Pam to take children into her care, and it was her life experience as a young person that led her to become a social worker.
"I saw what a difference my mum made in other children's lives," says Andeana, "and how the smallest things can do so much for a child." She intended to just do short term respite care, but it seemed that each child they took in ended up staying.
"To be a good parent or foster parent you have to be completely committed and on board 100 percent."
And Nan is always there as well, to be a positive role model. "I tell the children, 'Nan went through troubled times, but she made it and so can you'."
Rose-Ann found her "real love" when she gave four of her sister's children a home for life
"I'll tell you what, these kids just fill my life," says Rose-Ann Kinney, a registered nurse. "I was really passionate about becoming a nurse but that's nothing compared to the kids, they're my passion now."
The whole family recently celebrated the two youngest children achieving permanency. As a single woman who had already raised a son, Rose-Ann was just embarking on her new career as a nursing student when she got the call that would change her life. It was her half-sister, ringing to say that she was about to go into hospital to have a baby, and was in deep trouble.
Her sister's two oldest kids Ben and Joseph were in their teens, and were already being raised by Rose-Ann. "The moment I found out that her baby was going into care I thought, 'I'm going to have that child, no matter what', and the social workers were really
Rose-Ann suddenly found herself raising three teenage boys, as well as young Ruben, and trying to juggle her nursing studies. But another surprise was yet to come. Her half-sister had another baby, this time a gorgeous young girl Jessie, who soon also joined the growing clan.
"I know this sounds bizarre but when I was in my twenties I said to my dad that I wanted to have four boys and one girl, I wanted a big family and I didn't think it was going to happen. So it seems fated really."
Today Rose-Ann loves having a big, happy family. "Just getting a kiss and a hug every morning. Or just hearing them say, 'Aunty, aunty look at me!'. Seeing their joy just makes you feel so great."
One big happy family
Linda always wanted a big family, but even she didn't reckon on 60 kids.
That's about how many children she and her husband Rob have cared for at the Family Home they run in Masterton. "I wanted more kids so I told Rob I've really paid him back now!" she laughs.
Linda says the highlights of her job are "endless". "Although the challenges are greater in a Family Home, the rewards are greater too. We had one teenage boy here for a long time who came in with challenging behaviour, but he just needed a sense of belonging.
"He's now succeeding in school, he's doing his NCEA and has a part-time job, and is on the right track. I even got a thank you card from his mother."
"There have been windows broken, rooms trashed, walls kicked in, scratches and bruises, all in a day's work for them and they manage these situations amazingly. The children in their care know they can trust Linda and Rob and have often been known to tell social workers they want to stay," says social worker Marilyn.
"They are really cool caregivers," says one of the children currently in their care.
"They are stars," says another.