MORE than 10 children are forced to leave the Wimmera each week because of a lack of carers.

Wimmera Uniting Care has launched a campaign ‘Don’t send me away’ to draw attention to the issue.

Chief executive Wendy Middleton said children had to leave behind families, friends, schools and their normal lives.

She said the campaign, first launched in March, received a strong response but there was still a shortage.

Ms Middleton said Wimmera Uniting Care would now run another campaign to encourage more people to take on caring.

“We want to pick up on people who might still be thinking about becoming a carer but are yet to do something about it,” she said.

“The reality is that we still need more carers and we need them now.”

Ms Middleton said it was important to keep children in the Wimmera.

“We need to make their transition into care as comfortable for them as possible,” she said.

“We’re asking for people to give us a hand and seriously look into becoming carers.”

Rupanyup couple Maureen and Peter Hellmuth became carers after first seeing an advertisement on television.

“My husband and I were living there on our own and he said ‘we’ve got plenty of room’,” Mrs Hellmuth said. “That was 15 years ago. It’s become a way of life for us.”

The Hellmuths have been both short-term and long-term carers, though only long-term carers for the past few years.

They currently care for a four-year-old girl who has been with them since she was one. Two brothers, aged seven and nine, have also been with the couple for almost two years.

The Hellmuth family also includes children Darren, 45, Heidi, 44, and Steven, 40, along with daughter Helen, 19.

Helen came to the family as a foster child when she was four. The Hellmuths later became her permanent carers.

Mrs Hellmuth said she and her husband treated every child like their own.

“Helen became our family the moment she joined us,” she said. “They are our kids once they come into our home.”

Five years ago the couple had cared for 120 children. The number is now much higher.

Mrs Hellmuth said she and her husband cared for Wimmera children. She said it was important to keep children in the region.

“Kids are going out of the area but it’s better if they stay here,” she said.

She encouraged people to take on caring.

“Give it a go,” she said. “It’s really satisfying when kids feel like they’re at home.

“When kids first come it must be really scary for them. When you see them relax and you see the affection, it’s amazing.

“A lot of people have said to me ‘I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t give them back again’.

“You’ve got to think, did you help that child along the way? If you did, it was worth it.”

Ms Middleton said becoming a carer did not have to be a permanent commitment.

She said there were respite, emergency, weekend on-call, short-term, long-term and permanent care options.

She said people aged between 21 and 70 could become carers. “Carers can come from all walks of life,” she said.

Ms Middleton said Wimmera Uniting Care would host an information session for prospective carers on June 26 from 7pm to 9pm at 28 Urquhart Street, Horsham.

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