Holding a knife and fork, eating three meals a day and drying yourself after a shower are simple things most of us do every day — and have done our entire lives. But for some children in Albany, these are things they are never taught. Lesley Hook has been there to help those children for the past 11 years as a foster carer in our community. During that time, some 120 children have come through her front door in need of proper care and love, aged anywhere from infancy to 18 years old. She has shared her story today, on the first day of WA Foster Carers Week, in the hope of inspiring others to fill a shortfall of local carers. Mrs Hook and her husband decided to help out after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper calling for help at a group home on weekends. It was not long before they were running the place themselves. Five years later, they opened up their own home to children with tough upbringings. Mrs Hook said they would do it all again in a heartbeat. “We have a little fellow at the moment. We sat him at the table the first night we were there, put the knife and fork down and he held them up and said ‘What are these?’,” she said. “He came out and he had his jocks over the top of his pants because he had never had underwear. “Sometimes it is just them saying that they slept really well last night because they felt safe. “How horrible is that — that every night they laid awake waiting for the fights? “You think it must be so nice for them to go to sleep and wake up in the morning not half-asleep because they were worried about what was going on. “Now he is in a really good routine. He gets up, he gets dressed, he has breakfast and he cleans his teeth and makes his bed, and he is so proud that he can do it all.” Mrs Hook said other children had been surprised to have food in their lunch boxes or overwhelmed to have their own bed. She said it had shown her how tough some children had it, missing out on simple things most people took for granted. “They thrive on routine and love and knowing there is going to be a meal on the table and someone there for them,” she said. “That is all they need. You only need a spare bedroom in your house, love and time to give them.” With so many children coming and going, she said it could be heartbreaking to say goodbye. While those moments could put a lot of people off, it was important to remember you were doing it for the children, not yourself, she said. “Every child is different in terms of how long we have them for,” she said. “People say that they couldn’t give them away. And in the end I say that yes, it does break our heart, but our heart is bigger than their heart and we can take the pain. Their little heart has been through enough pain and suffering — they don’t need anymore. “So even though it is breaking our heart, you have to give them all the positives, say that they will be able to see their mum now, and be positive for them.” WA Foster Carers Week runs from today until March 18. Mrs Hook urged people to look into becoming carers. “I can’t emphasise just how short they are of foster carers,” she said. “I have four kids at the moment and then they rang the other day and asked me to take another three but I said I can’t possibly do seven kids. “Give it a go, and if it’s not for you, it’s not for you, but at least you can say you’ve given it a try. “Your heart will get broken, but it will mend — and what you have given that child, you can’t take that back — they have it forever.” For information on becoming a foster carer, visit https://childprotectioncareers.wa.gov.au/foster-carer-recruitment.