For some people the thought of having 12 children in the house at any one time may be the stuff of nightmares but not for Serpentine couple Susan and Torin Johnstone.
The couple was recently awarded the prestigious Australia Day WA Citizen of the Year Award by the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale for fostering an amazing 300 children over a 16 years period.
Susan Johnstone said the couple’s decision to foster so many children came from missing having their own children around the house.
“We had our four own children quite young so we missed having young children around the house and I used to work in childcare and I just loved it,” Mrs Johnstone said.
“It can be heartbreaking when the children return to families, but is also very rewarding and you see change almost immediately.
“You see a confidence boost in the child and when they are confident their attitude to life improves,” she said.
When quizzed as to why they have fostered so many children, the couple said it could be very self-rewarding.
“To people who are thinking about fostering children, I would say do it,” Ms Johnstone said.
“I just love seeing the change in the children and having the opportunity to go to school and have food and a bed.
“A lot of children unfortunately don’t have that.
“There are a lot of single families out there where the mum may have to be hospitalised or the parents might be attending rehabilitation – there are a whole number of reasons why children enter care.”
When asked about the prestigious award the couple received, the husband and wife team said while they are shocked to receive the award they are also very humble about their unique achievements.
“Unfortunately it is not a record, but there are a lot of carers and it could have gone to a whole number of carers that foster and a lot more carers are needed,” she said.
“We have seen a few of our children who have grown up and left care and are doing well.
“One is a girl we used to foster, who left our care when she was 17, is now going for her diploma of child care.
“She now has a full time job and her own place and that is wonderful to see.
“We still have contact with many of the children we have fostered so we can keep up with how they are going.”
“At one stage we had 12 children we cared for but at the one time but at the moment we just have seven.”