NAB Quality Engineer and father, Mike te Wierik, knows better than most how important a stable home and unconditional love are for a child.
Together with wife Fiona, Mike has cared for more than 70 foster children over the past 15 years.
As foster parents, they provide a safe and loving home for kids who cannot live with their biological families; all whilst raising their biological son, 10 year old Lochie, and three-year-old foster son who has been with them from four months of age.
On Friday 2 September, Mike’s extraordinary dedication to being ‘Dad’ to so many children was acknowledged with the 2022 YMCA Victorian Father of the Year award, which recognises Victoria’s most deserving dad or father figure.
Mike and Fiona’s journey into foster parenting began when they sponsored a World Vision child, and began to feel that they could do something more that was connected to their own community.
“We just wanted to give these kids the love and care they deserve,” Mike said.
“Providing a stable home can make all the difference in the world to a young child, and we see enormous rewards from what we do.
“Over their time with us, we see our kids learning to do simple things, like giving a hug and being kind. Those things make it all worth it.
“Fiona has been incredible and I owe her a lot. We’ve been through all of this together.”
Mike said being a foster parent had moments of incredible heartbreak.
“Some of the things our kids have told us they have been through have been very confronting,” Mike said.
“These are kids that we love, and it is just traumatising to know they have been through this stuff.”
Mike said he and Fiona still keep in touch with their now-grown foster children, some of whom are now studying at university, doing apprenticeships and had families of their own.
“One of them recently told us that he could still find happiness in life regardless of the adversity he’d experienced and the pain that he’d felt. That’s just about the best thing we could hear,” Mike said.
It’s not uncommon for Mike to receive a phone call in the middle of the night from the foster agency asking if he and Fiona can immediately take custody of a child.
“It always starts with a random phone call, and it can be any time or day of the week,” Mike said.
“We’ve had kids with us for Christmas, for one day and for more than three years at a time.”
Mike is a Senior Consultant Quality Engineer in the NAB technology team where he delivers engineering practices; running quality engineering testing and providing test automation currently used by eight different teams, and growing.
He said NAB’s support had been important to he and Fiona being able to care for so many children over the years.
“My leaders have been 100 per cent behind me the whole way, giving me flexibility and space to make it work when we are bringing a child into our home,” Mike said.
“There is a lot of support and respect from my colleagues for what we’re doing, which is wonderful.”
You can learn more about fostering via Life Without Barriers, the foster agency the Wierik family uses and where Fiona is a board member, or through Fostering Connections, the state-wide advocacy body which connects people with agencies.