Carers often unsung

IN the eyes of many, Albion Park's Annette Holmes would be a worthy winner of the Community Hero category as part of the NSW Woman of the Year Awards.

Throughout 15 years as a foster carer Ms Holmes has had 67 children - from newborns to teenagers - in her care. However, the 60-year-old was a reluctant nominee for the award.

"It was certainly a shock," Mrs Holmes said.

"My daughter Sharleen - well, she's my niece by birth but I raised her from the age of one so I consider her my daughter - nominated me and I had no idea.

"When I got the phone call telling me I was nominated I was going to decline it, but in the end I accepted the nomination on the condition that if I happened to win, it would be on behalf of carers everywhere because there's so many people who don't receive any recognition."

Unable to have children of her own, Mrs Holmes turned to foster care as a way to help vulnerable children.

The majority of children that Mrs Holmes cares for are babies born with drug and alcohol addiction.

"Being a foster carer was a way for me to have children in my life and at the same time help those in need," she said.

"I used to have children of all ages, but because of my health and my age I'm now caring for newborns, a lot of which is emergency care for those who are born with addiction problems.

"To be able to help those kids is such a rewarding experience, they come to you at such a vulnerable time, in a lot of pain, but to be able to help them through that and see that first smile on their face is just amazing."

The children that come through Mrs Holmes' care often stay with her for extended periods, which makes their departure somewhat bittersweet.

"I've had children stay with me for anywhere up to 13 months and in that time you definitely form a bond with them and it can be hard to see them go," she said.

"In saying that you're always happy that they're either going back to their families or to a new family due to adoption.

"Being able to help and to give a child a good start in life is such an amazing feeling, and it's something I'll be doing until I physically can't any more."

To vote in the awards, head online to women. and follow the prompts.

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