How would your life look with foster children?
AT A campsite 20 years ago, Karen and Gary Seagrott from Pittsworth made a life-changing decision to become foster carers.
Fast forward to today, and it is another camping adventure tempting the couple on an alternative life course. This time it is for a rest, a time to re-charge and consider what's next. Or is it?
Trouble is, Karen can't say no. When she hears of a child needing care, the travel plans slip by the wayside and the caravan remains unhitched in the driveway.
"I struggle to say no," Karen says, "but I know as a foster carer you have to understand your own limits."
Speaking to Karen you quickly get a sense of responsibility the Seagrotts have to children in need. You also hear how much their lives have been enriched by the many girls and boys who have made a home with them.
One of those lives, now sadly passed, was Tyson.
Tyson was born with Down syndrome and profoundly disabled. His life expectancy was short, with the Seagrotts told he wouldn't survive more than a few months. He was expected to stay a month and it turned out to be 12 years, which Karen says was because of the love and the care he received.
"He was a fighter," she said, "born five weeks premature and very tiny because of his Down syndrome. The doctors said he won't survive.
"When he was four months old he looked like he wouldn't live to eight months. We fought with the doctors for more to be done to improve his quality of life - and he survived.
"Then he was diagnosed with leukaemia and we were told he had a zero chance of survival. We fought that too. We got him in to remission, but sadly when he was 11 years old he relapsed again. This time there was nothing medically we could do."
The Seagrotts were advised to place Tyson in palliative care, but the family knew there was one more fight to have - to bring him home. Tyson passed away at home in Karen and Gary's arms as they sang his favourite songs to him.
Nearly three years has passed and the many fond memories of Tyson linger.
Give it a go
Her advice to would-be carers?
"Give it a go. It's not easy. There will be lots of tears but there will also be lots of smiles. If we had our time over again, even though it was so hard to lose Tyson - we would still do it again."
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer thanked the Seagrotts for their tireless dedication and commitment to creating brighter futures for some of the state's most vulnerable children.
"This week is Foster and Kinship Carer Week and I am so honoured to be able to present long-term foster and kinship carers, like Karen and Gary, with a Certificate of Recognition for their tremendous efforts," she said.
"Karen and Gary are two of more than 5300 foster carers across the state who provide loving, stable homes for children who are no longer able to live safely at home."
If you're interested in being a foster carer, call the Foster Care Recruitment Line on 1300 550 877 or visit www.fcq.com.au