Annette Holmes, known affectionately as Nanny Nette, provided a safe, loving home for more than 70 children – most of them babies – in the decade she was a foster carer for CareSouth. It was with much sadness that CareSouth staff, carers, and the children and young people whose lives she touched, farewelled her in May last year.

As a tribute to the much-loved foster carer, who lit up any room she walked into, CareSouth has refurbished and dedicated a suite of rooms set up for family time visits with children and their birth parents. “Being a foster carer makes me feel useful,” said Nanny Nette when she featured in CareSouth’s Magazine in 2017 “I feel like I’m helping and contributing to improving their lives. It’s so satisfying. I wish I had started doing it 20 years earlier. But on the other hand, I also wish there was no need for it at all and the little people could be safe and happy in their birth families. Unfortunately that’s not always the reality.”

When asked if her heart broke every time a child moved on from short term care to a more permanent care arrangement, Nanny Nette was frank: “The short answer is yes. But we always say goodbye with a smile and talk about the happy times they had with us.”

Nanny Nette remained a dedicated short-term foster carer, as well as a long-term carer for her grandchildren until she passed away. CareSouth held a special place in her heart, with her family requesting donations to the organisation in lieu of flowers after her sad passing.

“I actually feel that I’m part of a team at CareSouth,” said Nanny Nette in 2017. “Of the three agencies I’ve worked with, CareSouth is by far the most supportive and the thing I love most is that the support is not just there for the children and the carers, it’s there for the birth families as well.”

In a fitting tribute to Nanny Nette, hundreds more children and young people’s lives will be touched by the loving foster carer when they spend time with their families in our Berkeley family time rooms. And there will be plenty of smiles.

Norma Preston was the first foster carer to transition over to CareSouth Deniliquin when the office opened its doors in 2013.

In honour of Norma’s dedicated service to improving the lives of vulnerable young people, the Deniliquin team, along with CareSouth Executive Officer Tracy Mayo, recently unveiled the Norma Preston room in the Deniliquin offices. It was a fitting tribute to Norma and her husband Roy who have opened their hearts and home to 265 children during their quarter of a century as foster carers. Norma started her foster care journey after speaking with her sister who was a foster carer at the time. Now Norma, her daughter and her granddaughter have all been foster carers throughout their life.

“My granddaughter is a carer at the moment,” said Norma proudly. “She has a few children, including six of her own. She’s a mini me.” Norma said that her initial motivation to start fostering was the realisation that so many children needed a safe and nurturing home and she was committed to making a difference. Both Norma and Roy had difficult upbringings and know how important unconditional love, consistency of care, routine and stability can be for traumatised children.

“We know how hard it can be for some parents, not to have enough money to feed their children, to look after them in the way they want to,” said Norma. “If we can do that for them until they are ready to go home, we will do it. It’s really important to have that empathy and understanding with birth parents. We are here to work with them. We just do what we can to help. It has been such a worthwhile experience.”

While receiving the honour, Norma joked that she had done all the hard yards while Roy just went to work. However, Norma and Roy have taken on a caring role for each other recently after both being diagnosed with cancer. They are now on the road to recovery, with Norma completing chemotherapy and radiation treatment earlier this year.

Despite their health issues the couple continued to care for two young children, along with their adopted children – aged 14 and 22. Pru McManus – CareSouth Regional Manager, Western NSW said Norma was always her first port of call when looking for a foster carer, particularly at short notice.

“Norma is passionate about supporting children to return to their family and gets great pleasure seeing them grow and flourish,” said Pru.

Read more stories in our latest magazine, https://www.caresouth.org.au/app/uploads/2021/09/September-2021-EveryDayMagazineWeb.pdf