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Shepparton first-time foster carers Danny and Kylie urge others to help out

By Charmayne Allison

It was just a Spiderman cake, but to a four-year-old boy it was the entire world.

Just two days after Shepparton's Danny Stephens and Kylie Cherry welcomed their first foster child into their home, it was the little boy's birthday.

Smack bang in the middle of COVID-19 restrictions, there wasn't much they could do to celebrate.

But they knew he liked Spiderman. So they decked out his room with Spiderman paraphernalia, and bought him a Spiderman suit and matching cake.

“It didn't seem like much. But for him, it was massive,” Mr Stephens said.

“Months on, he still talks about his birthday and how excited he is for his next one.

“You can't describe how that makes you feel.”

It's been a couple years since youth worker Ms Cherry, 32, first pitched the idea of foster caring to her partner, sign-writer Mr Stephens, 27.

Living in Shepparton with Mr Stephens's son Rylan, 9, the trio enjoy a "pretty good" lifestyle.

“We're always out on the boat, always having fun camping, motorbike riding and going to skate parks,” Mr Stephens said.

“It was Kylie's idea to care for other kids who haven't had such a good upbringing.”

The couple set up a meeting with Berry St and was given the rundown on foster care, before eventually kicking off training.

“They told us what can happen and had people come in and tell us about their different experiences with foster care,” Mr Stephens said.

“Berry St prepares you, and there's a lot of continued support along the way.”

Finally, on June 15, their first foster child arrived.

From day one, the four-year-old boy fit right into the family.

“He and Rylan got along like a house on fire,” Mr Stephens said.

“Rylan would be on his PlayStation, chatting to his friends on the headset, and he'd say, ‘I'm just with my little brother'.”

But after two months — and that unforgettable Spiderman birthday — the little boy was returned to Wodonga, placed with another foster family closer to his biological parents.

While Mr Stephens, Ms Cherry and Rylan always knew his stay with them would be temporary, it didn't make saying goodbye any easier.

“It was so tough,” Mr Stephens said.

“There were lots of tears. You can't prepare anyone for that.”

But they are still in touch with their first foster child to this day.

“We chatted to him two days ago — and he mentioned his Spiderman birthday again,” Mr Stephens said with a laugh.

While saying farewell to his new little brother was heartbreaking for Rylan, Mr Stephens said they had prepared him for the highs and lows of foster care.

“I made sure I still had father-son time with Rylan so he didn't feel left out or like somebody was invading,” Mr Stephens said.

“He's very involved in what we do. He's a very loving kid, too.”

But the spare bedroom won't be empty for long.

In two weeks, Mr Stephens and Ms Cherry will welcome their second foster child — a little girl.

“I'm pretty excited, but definitely nervous,” Mr Stephens admitted.

“But we just need to provide the best care we can and make her feel safe.”

Mr Stephens urged anyone interested in foster care to take the leap.

“If you're thinking about it, at least go and sit in on the training,” he said.

“Even if you don't go ahead with it, it's really good to just get exposure, and see whether it's something you want to do.”

READ MORE ABOUT FOSTER CARE IN THE SHEPPARTON NEWS

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