Aboriginal woman Jo Mara has been a foster carer to Aboriginal children for 17 years.
THE NSW peak body for Aboriginal children and families is urgently calling for more Aboriginal people to become foster carers.
More than 6,000 Aboriginal children across the state have been removed from their birth families, but only one in every five is able to be placed with Aboriginal carers.
The Marrickville based AbSec (the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat) fears this is leading to a loss of culture and identity for vulnerable children.
"We want as many of those children and young people as possible to stay safely within their extended family and community networks, so that Aboriginal children can remain connected to their culture," AbSec CEO Tim Ireland said.
"Aboriginal kinship carers and foster carers know how important family is, the importance of connection to country, to be part of community. They understand that our culture and identity is a source of strength, resilience and hope for our children and young people.
"We urgently need Aboriginal people to put their hand up and open their doors to children and young people in their community who need support."
Aboriginal woman Jo Mara has been a carer for 17 years, since retiring from work and bringing up her two biological children.
As well as opening their doors to several children in short-term or emergency arrangements, she and her husband are long-term carers to three Aboriginal young people who came and stayed.
"I hadn't planned on three, but when I met them, they were just gorgeous," Ms Mara said.
"So my husband and I spoke about it and we said, why not, let's give it a go and see how we go. And they have now been with us since 2000."
Ms Mara said that caring comes with challenges, but it's rewarding.
Her favourite part of being a carer is seeing children open up and blossom over time.
She also wants carers to know there's plenty of support available.
"There are organised carers' groups and there are some wonderful, wonderful teams of Aboriginal care support workers who are my first point of call if I have something I need support with," she said.
"Carers are also paid a subsidy for the children. It makes it possible for you to be able to do it, to be able to foster."
Aboriginal people interested in becoming a carer are encouraged to call AbSec on 1800 888 698.