How this amazing couple changed the lives of two kids
IT TOOK an army of health professionals to help restore the damaged pieces of Daniel's young life.
But most of all, it took the undying love, patience and dedication of two extraordinary individuals.
Despite the challenges, Lesley and Steve Plim unanimously agree having the chance to give children a better start was a life changing journey.
Daniel came into their permanent care at aged three months with severe brain injury and almost complete loss of sight. Before these injuries, Daniel had been a happy, fully-functioning baby ... though now it seemed likely he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and never be able to see again.
"When Daniel came to us, we were given a bit of background about his needs, but we didn't really know what to expect," Lesley said.
"Although between us Steve and I have four grown-up children, we had never cared for a baby with brain injury ... we just took it one day at a time.'
Daniel was now a happy, almost normal-functioning four-year-old who walks and speaks clearly with a posh-sounding voice. He attends pre-school two days a week and proudly wears his monkey-shaped glasses which help him see.
When newborn Toby joined them few years after Daniel, he was suffering withdrawal symptoms from antenatal drug use and needed around the clock care.
It was difficult for Lesley and Steve to calm Toby, who frequently screamed through the night and had to be administered morphine every four hours to help wean him off his drug dependence.
"It's heartbreaking seeing them suffer, but it's also so rewarding to see both children achieve even the smallest milestone.
"I couldn't imagine my life without our foster kids, they are part of our lives now."
After six months of Lesley and Steve's persistent nurturing, Toby emerged from the worst of his withdrawal and was recently placed in his grandparents' care.
Lesley said they couldn't have done it without their Challenge case worker.
"She still visits once a month and is always there for us when we need to vent or we need advice or referrals," she said.
Figures from Fostering NSW reveal there are approximately 18,000 children like Daniel and Toby in need of out-of-home care in New South Wales. A FACS spokesperson said numbers for the region could not be outlined, with foster carer numbers fluctuating as FACS works together with families and the sector to ensure children can stay close to home and within their existing families wherever possible.
Challenge Community Services regional manager Julie May said unfortunately everyday children to come into the care system.
"The need is constantly increasing, so our push is for foster care recruitment," Ms May said.
"It's not just about long term care, we are now targeting our recruitment for foster carers to be able to manage restoration matters and to undertake guardian ship.
"Open adoption is the other other legislative swing at the moment."
Lismore Challenge Community Service's Emma Fraser said the tremendous dedication of foster carers like Steve and Lesley made all the difference to children's lives.
"Sometimes, as in Daniel and Toby's case, it literally means giving a child a future," she said.
"It can be very confronting for foster carers to look after children with complex physical and emotional needs. Yet many of our carers say it's this very challenge of caring for our most vulnerable children that brings the greatest rewards."
Do you want to turn a vulnerable child or young person's life around? Contact Challenge Community Services by emailing email@example.com for more information about becoming a foster carer.
Or download our free e-book Fostering for Permanency: Giving Children and Young People a Safe Home for Life.
Read Lesley and Steve's story https://www.challengecommunity.org.au/foster-care/news-and-stories/giving-hope-in-the-face-of-a-bleak-future/