Some people might consider three children a large-ish family, but not Lisa Warren.
Lisa Warren (middle) with (clockwise from top left) some of her children: Daughters Ainsley and Sky, son Tom, grandson Jarvis, granddaughter Stella and daughter Emily.
Lisa and her husband Bret have cared for about 40 children over the years, some fostered, some adopted and three of them born and bred to the pair.
“When you arrive at the front door of the Warren family home, the first thing you notice is the giant pile of shoes,” Lisa and Bret’s daughter Emily Goodall says.
“You are welcomed by an elated bunch of kids just bursting with energy.
“Inside her buzzing, wonderfully chaotic home, there’s a busy production line in the kitchen cooking, serving and cleaning up.
“There’s music playing on the back veranda, while kids play either on bikes or scooters, or in the pool.”
Emily feels so strongly about how much her mum has done, she nominated her for Barnados Mother of the Year.
“My mum, Lisa Warren, has eight children, three of which are biological, three are foster children and two are adopted,” Emily wrote in her nomination.
“She also has four grandchildren.
“Mum and Dad raised three children of their own and still had love to give.
“They started foster care 12 years ago, and have taken in and helped more than 40 children.
“Some stayed for a night or two, others for weekends, But many stayed much longer, weeks, months, years.
“They are always welcomed into the family, fed, clothed and cared for.”
While Lisa was not named as a finalist in the Barnados Mother of the Year, Mother’s Day will always be a celebration for her large family.
Emily said the family grew again two years ago when a close friend died suddenly.
She had been a single mum to two children – one with Down syndrome – and although Lisa was working full-time and juggling family life with three permanent foster children, she went to their aid and took the kids in.
“Within a week, Mum had said goodbye to her friend, packed up the kids’ belongings and moved them some 300 kilometres to live with her,” Emily said.
“Mum provided for them, arranged schooling, counselling and medical appointments.
“Mum has given so much to so many children.
“More than just a warm bed and three meals a day, she has provided a happy, supportive, loving family environment where disadvantaged kids can feel safe and belong when they are in desperate need.”
Lisa, while she is a well-known face at her workplace at PCYC, is not keen on the spotlight.
She says the decision she and her husband Bret made to take so many children into their lives has reaped its own rewards through the sound of their laughter and watching them grow to be independent.
“Bret and I both come from large families – we always had lots of children around us,” Lisa says.
“I would have loved to have a large family, but wasn’t able to.
“We had three happy, healthy children, lots of love, a large house and land.”
Bret and Lisa’s two oldest children are now married with children of their own, adding four (with a fifth expected any day) grandchildren to the Warren brood.
At home, Lisa and Bret have their 17-year-old daughter, two adopted children and three foster children – with the number changing frequently.
Lisa says she loves caring for and helping children and feels she has to advocate for their rights as well.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve,” she says.
She says help is on hand from her parents who live close by, and her daughters Emily and Ainsley.
“Having the children around, doing things with them, watching and helping them grow and reach their milestones – it makes me feel young and happy,” she says.
“I enjoy the challenge of juggling being a mum, daughter, sister, aunty and grandmother, working four days per week, canteen duties, president of the Gunnedah Public School P and C, volunteering for various organisations like the Heart Foundation doorknock appeal, Salvation Army doorknock appeal, NSW Down Syndrome Association and PCYC events.
“My philosophy is do the best you can with the time you have, and always be appreciative for what you have.”
That philosophy has seen about 40 children pass through the Warren household.
It has not always been easy. One of the children the couple fostered died from an illness and Lisa says it can be very distressing to say goodbye to children when they are no longer in your care.
But among the memories of raising so many children are many that make her smile.
She remembers a holiday with six children to Tasmania, caravanning holidays, and sharing their hobbies.
“Seeing the children just being children and being part of it is very special,” Lisa says.
See Gunnedah’s mums in our gallery.
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