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Dunedin foster mother Sue Haenraets (53) said she remembered the excitement of fostering Lara Madigan (19) four days before her second birthday.
Mrs Haenraets had fostered about 20 children in 19 years, some for a week, or a month, others for years, she said.
Miss Madigan said most foster children tested the trust boundaries of foster parents but her "mum" continually rose to the challenge, she said.
Being strong and never giving up was her advice for any new caregivers.
Miss Madigan said many children were serial runaways but home-cooked meals often stopped them in their tracks. Regular Sunday roasts were enough to make most children stay.
She said both parents helped her succeed with studies and would both be supportive grandparents, as she was expecting a child with her long-term partner Sam. Her "mum" would become "nana" in late March, she said.
The dedication of about 60 foster parents would be celebrated at the Southern Cross Hotel, in Dunedin, tonight, the first day of national Foster Care Awareness Week.
Those who had provided care for more than 15 years would be recognised at the event, Fellow foster parent Helen Wilson (56), Mrs Haenraet's older sister, said she had cared for children for 25 years and children appreciated her home cooking compared with the instant noodles many were used to.
A foster child had accidentally smashed a plate in her home and started shaking uncontrollably, Mrs Wilson said.
Mrs Haenraets said providing a safe, stable home were prerequisites for good care.
Her ex-husband, Peter Haenraets, helped to provide that stability for the children and was a key part of getting children ready to reunite with their birth parents, if possible, she said.
Mrs Haenraets said there were never enough foster parents, especially for children 8 years and older.
• Emergency care: When a child or young person is placed in care at short notice because there are serious concerns for their safety.
• Respite care: Taking a child in for a weekend or a short period of time, to give parents or caregivers a break.
• Transitional or short-term care: Taking a child in while decisions are made about what is best for the child, and how to make sure they are safe and well cared for.
• Home for life: When whanau or foster carers make a lifelong commitment to a child in foster care, and they are no longer in Child, Youth and Family's care. The child still maintains contact with their family of origin, but gets a sense of security and belonging as part of a family.