Full-time foster carer Maria Worner has been named as the 2019 Barnados ACT Mother of the Year.
Recognised for continually going above and beyond for the children in her care, Maria was nominated for the award by her 19-year-old daughter, Nikki, who says her mother “makes it all look easy”.
Maria, a mum of two daughters, currently has one foster child in her care, and provides respite care for many others. She says being recognised with the award is “a little bit surreal”.
“It’s just something that has been part of our lives for a long, long time. To be recognised is pretty amazing, but … I don’t feel like I’ve done anything more than any other mother,” she says.
“I’m overwhelmed to say the least. I burst into tears when I found out.”
A foster carer for 15 years, Maria started when she visited a friend in hospital, whose son was in foster care while she recovered.
“I hadn’t actually thought about foster care in that circumstance,” she says. “I hadn’t heard of the short-term nature or a night here and there, just to help somebody out.”
She began doing a few nights “here and there”, then, while her daughters were with their dad on alternate weekends, Maria decided to get into crisis care.
“I decided ‘I think I can do more than this’… It could be a day, a week, a month, months … and some of those turned into many, many months.
“It’s been a bit of a revolving door since then. That hospital visit changed my life and my girls’ life.”
Maria says she wouldn’t be able to do what she does without the support of Basketball ACT, Bunnings (where she can often be found at a fundraising barbecue), the ACT Government and, of course, her two daughters Sharni and Nikki.
“The fact that I have an amazing support network by way of family and basketball … I have friends that don’t ask who it is or why they’re with me, they just take them in,” she says.
“To see that being brought out in the community is just absolutely beautiful. It brings out the best in people. For these kids to feel safe in an environment … it’s something that’s been missing. To see them out in that network is so amazing,” she says.
“The good times far outweigh the bad, and it has been an amazing journey.
“People say ‘how do you do it?’ And I say ‘how do you not do it?’”
Maria will join the other State and Territory winners for the announcement of the 2019 Barnados Mother of the Year award at a national ceremony in Sydney, on Thursday 9 May, just before Mother’s Day.