Children in foster care take joy flight over the Illawarra

An excited gaggle of children have received a bird's eye view of the Illawarra, thanks to a courtesy joy flight.

Foster Care Flight

More than 20 children in foster care and some of their carers took to the skies from Shellharbour Airport on Friday morning.

Link Airways donated the opportunity and took them up in the air for about 45 minutes.

Alicia Pearson, program manager for Barnados' permanent care and adoption team, said the children were "buzzing" before they went on the flight.

Some were nervous, Ms Pearson said, but all were looking forward to the special activity.

One nine-year-old boy told the Illawarra Mercury that he was "excited and happy" to have gone on the flight.

He said he could see all the homes below when the pilot tilted the plane.

Another boy, aged 11, also said flying over the houses was a highlight for him and described the experience as fun.

"The scenery was really pretty," a girl said.

The 11-year-old said she thought she might have seen a dolphin or a whale from the window when they flew over the water.

"I really liked flying over the ocean," she said.

"Flying over it or swimming in it, either way it's beautiful."

Ms Pearson said the flight was made possible by one of their Barnados carers, Tony Leeder-Smith, who worked at the airport.

Knowing some of the children had not been on a plane before, Mr Leeder-Smith said, he thought it would be a good experience for them.

Jeff Boyd, from Link Airways, said it was something the airline was only to happy to do when he was approached by Mr Leeder-Smith, to give the children - many of whom had never flown - the opportunity to go on a plane.

Ms Pearson said Barnados was always looking for more carers to provide temporary or permanent care for children.

She said carers would be understanding, empathetic, patient, resilient, and "just great people".

Mr Leeder-Smith and his wife provided permanent care to children, and have moved into respite and crisis care.

The couple lived next to a group home in England and had the children there attend their gym, then took on fostering when they moved to Australia after seeing an ad in the paper.

Seeing the improvement in the children's lives, he said, was what kept them providing care.

"These kids just want to be loved," Mr Leeder-Smith said.

For information on becoming a carer, call Barnados on 1800 663 441.

This article first appeared in the Illawara Mercury here.

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