Arrowtown's McChlery family recognised for excellence in foster care
An Arrowtown couple with five kids of their own, who have been fostering local kids for 13 years, are flying high in Wellington this weekend, after receiving a prestigious award from Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy.
Sally and Reece McChlery were chosen from 3500 foster families for one of 10 Excellence in Foster Care Awards handed out nationally.
The couple, who haven't had a break away from their own children together for 15 years, were flown to Wellington to rub shoulders with a host of dignitaries at Government House for the awards ceremony on Friday.
Southland couple Ann and Ron Giles were also recipients of the award.
On Saturday the winners will be taken on a sightseeing tour of Wellington.
For the McChlerys, who still have four of their five children, aged from six to 21, living at home, the recognition was a huge honour.
"We get so much more out of having the kids than we give to them," Sally McChlery, who is also a Wakatipu Victim Support volunteer, said.
They have been taking foster children in for respite care, often in emergency situations, since their second eldest child was a baby. Children may be staying with them for anything from a night to four months.
"We do it because we just love kids so much. They're the most precious things," she said.
Child Youth and Family social workers bring children to them for a range of reasons from protection to neglect.
"Normally the parents are incapable of meeting their basic health and schooling needs, or keeping them safe," she said.
"There may be inappropriate people around, so we take them, usually for short-term care, while Child Youth and Family works with their families to find a permanent solution."
"It's really, really rewarding to know we're able to make a difference when kids are in danger, but you can't save them all," she said.
"It can be heart-breaking at times, but you have to pull it all together and be the adult and use your common sense...You need to think how these kids will be feeling. They need time and a quiet place to go. You can't rush into their personal space and hug them, as they've probably just been through the most stressful situation in their lives."
One of few couples in the region fostering, the McChlerys said they hoped their award would encourage other families to foster children in the district.
"You can say 'no' if an age or gender doesn't suit your family. There's a big gap when they leave but you know you're doing what's right for them."
Fostering Kids NZ communications advisor Alistair Wilkinson said all of the foster parents were "extraordinary people".
The awards are held every year and the foster parents are nominated by social workers and the community. The winners are chosen during a rigorous selection process, carried out by a panel from Fostering Kids NZ and Child Youth and Family, and senior practitioners.