If you ever think you may have too many kids, remember that Dave and Barb Rugendyke have had hundreds pass through their doors.
While the couple from Cobargo on the NSW south coast has five biological, four adopted and five long-term kids, they also spent the last 25 years looking after over 400 foster care children.
“We stopped counting after 400,” Barb said.
“It’s just our life, we don’t think that we are anything special or that we’re different.”
Their first foster care child, 26-year-old Serena Rugendyke, was adopted by them, as she and her twin sister had wanted to be adopted.
She said growing up as a foster care child with Barb and Dave was no different to being a normal kid.
“They tried to make it so we had the most normal upbringing possible, because that’s the idea,” she said.
The family opened up about their experiences for Foster Care Week, which runs from September 9-15, as they said there was a desperate need for new carers.
“This is the time where there’s been the least number of carers that I can remember,” Mr Rugendyke said.
The Rudengykes, who moved to Cobargo nine years ago, focus on short-term emergency accommodation for children under the age of five.
About a month ago, two foster care children from Sydney came to live with them indefinitely. While they were nervous at first, they had settled in very well and were taken to Moruya for meetings with their parents.
“We like to build a biological relationship with the parents, we like to include them in whatever happens with their kids,” Barb said.
The idea of becoming carers started when Dave was in the police force and saw a need for it, before the two began looking into the role some more.
It had been very rewarding, they said, and they still maintained contact with some of the children they cared for and enjoyed seeing what they did with their lives.
“If you can reunite a family then that is really, really, really good,” Barb said.
“When you see what they’ve turned out to be, then that’s really rewarding.”
They encouraged more people in the Bega Valley to consider becoming foster carers. Barb said if you love children, then at least try becoming a carer.
“It gives you a reason to go on and it keeps you young,” she said as her six-year-old adopted daughter Sarah played on the floor in front of her.
“And look at my beautiful girl. She makes it all worth it.”