Seven months on from 13-year-old Kelly* coming to live with Margi Garretty and Chris 'Cob' O'Brien, the couple couldn't imagine their lives without her.
Prior to this year, the pair had cared for children on a respite, casual basis and "absolutely loved it". Then in February, Kelly had requested coming to live with them as a permanent foster child.
One of the biggest challenges for the young girl at first, Kelly's foster mother recalled, was her learning how to just be a kid.
"She used to look after her siblings when she was eight years old. So, all her life she's just felt like she's needed to look after everybody else," Ms Garretty explained.
"When she first came... she used to parent me, and I'd go, 'hang on, you're the 12-year-old, and I'm the adult, you sit back, and I will look after you'."
It didn't take long for Kelly to settle in though and begin to feel safe and happy - something which became evident in her schoolwork. By Term 2, she had even been awarded best student in Year 7.
"She's doing fabulously," Ms Garretty said.
"Her schoolwork is incredible. She's got awards from school and beautiful letters from teachers saying how well she's doing. So yeah, we're pretty proud."
When it came to foster caring, the old proverb of "it takes a village to raise a child" had never been so true, Ms Garrett said. Because of the larger care network of foster carers, caseworkers, agencies and schools they were apart of it, it felt like everyone was pitching in to give these children the strong foundations they needed to build the lives they deserved.
"We're a team, they're our children... Everybody's in it together to give these kids the best life they can," Ms Garretty explained.
But with an estimated 16,000 children in NSW alone currently in out-of-home care, it meant many children weren't getting the attention, love and sense of belonging and safety they needed.
With Foster Care and Kinship Week running until Saturday, the couple hoped their story would encourage others to look into opening their homes for a child in need.
"In New South Wales alone... we need approximately 350 extra homes to provide safety and security... [and] we need carers so we can provide individual attention to these children," Ms Garretty said.
For the couple, Kelly was walking proof of what happened when they received that.
A recent letter the 13-year-old wrote to them had reduced Ms Garretty to tears.
"[She told us] how grateful she was for what we'd done for her and that she feels safe here. She feels that she can say what she is feeling," Ms Garretty said.
"She's been through a huge amount of stuff... She's so brave."
*Name changed to protect privacy
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