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Local Foster Carers, Billie Henderson and Mark Mason have been announced recipients of the Deb Elsley Memorial Award as part of the Veritas House Foster Care Week celebrations.

The award acknowledges the significant contribution that Billie and Mark have made in providing a safe and supportive home environment to some 17 children and young people over the past six years, assisting them to grow and develop in a happy and healthy way.

According to Veritas Carer Support Practitioner, Bridget Tracy, in addition to being compassionate carers, Billie and Mark work hard to support other local foster carers, particularly new carers and those experiencing hardship, and have provided advice and guidance to Veritas House on policies and procedures to support the broader carer network.

“Billie has assisted Veritas in the delivery of Shared Lives training to carer applicants in the past year and her reflections on the challenges they have faced, along with the incredible rewards has both informed and inspired applicants,” said Bridget.

“While working at Veritas it has been my privilege to get to know many carers and there is no question that Billie and Mark embody the Veritas values of collaboration, authenticity and relationships, and are thoroughly deserving of this award.

Billie and Mark started their journey as foster carers while living in the Gulf of Carpentaria, when they took a child into their care from a local family that was struggling and there were no local foster or kinship carers in the area. Working in isolation and without agency support, they became authorised foster carers for the boy who remains close to them today. They have continued to be carers wherever they have moved and have come to appreciate the importance of having an honest and open relationship with a foster care agency, like Veritas House.

“As a foster carer there are always lots of tears, but there are also always huge rewards, and that’s seeing a child safe, happy and healthy because of the love that you can provide them as a foster carer,” said Billie.

The Award was presented at the Veritas House Foster Care Week Awards ceremony and also saw six Foster Carers presented with 5 and 15 year service awards acknowledging their dedication and contribution to children and young people. The final event for the week will be a Foster Care information session delivered online on Thursday, 17 September commencing at 6.00pm. For more information or to register to attend, contact Lee Purcell on (02) 6332 3882.

The number of children and young people entering Out of Home Care in NSW has grown from 10,000 in 2006 to 18,000 in 2016 and Veritas is hopeful that local residents will attend the information session and consider becoming carers to help address the growing need. A wide range of Carers are required including respite – which can be as little as a weekend a month; emergency; long term; extended family or kin; guardianship and adoptive parents.

Veritas House is a not-for-profit organisation that was established in Bathurst almost 40 years ago and has grown to become one of the largest providers of foster care, youth homelessness and early intervention services in the region, supporting more than 800 children, young people and families each year.