When Rob and Mary Rimoldi opened their hearts and their home to their first foster children in 1973, they had no inkling that forty five years later they would still be welcoming newborn babies in need of care.
At the time Rob and Mary were a young married couple with three healthy children. But they were also processing the devastating grief of having lost three more children shortly after birth to rhesus disease, a condition where antibodies in the blood destroy a baby's blood cells.
They adored children and wanted a large family but their dreams of adopting were dashed when adoption regulations changed and they were ruled ineligible because they already had children of their own. That’s when they decided to become foster parents.
Amongst their early foster children were two little girls, Kylie and Melanie, sisters aged 15 months and 6 years, both with the same severe – and terminal – degenerative disease.
Melanie’s high level needs, and the importance of caring for her in a family environment, inspired Mary to work with CatholicCare Sydney to establish Melanie’s Program – a long-term foster care program for children with moderate to severe physical or intellectual disabilities.
While many of the Rimoldi’s foster children have had a physical or intellectual disability, most have not had any disability at all. They have also cared for children from widely different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
Foster care is generally required for periods ranging from six weeks to as long as six years. The reasons parents decide to seek assistance through fostering is varied and complex, but often affects single mothers, or separated parents, financial difficulties and families coping with addiction.
Over the years, the Rimoldis have seen some positive changes in the fostering and adoption processes. “These days’ birth mothers are given longer to make a decision about whether to place their child into the adoption system, and they are also given the opportunity to have a say in the process,” said Mary. “While placing a child for adoption can never be easy, these changes are definitely a step in the right direction.”
When asked what she loved most about being a foster mum, Mary said, “I enjoy taking a little baby and helping them to develop into happy and healthy people. We’re often asked how it feels to let babies go when they leave us, but in truth we are happy to let them go to where they should be.”
In 1992 Mary Rimoldi was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and in 2005 she was named NSW Woman of the Year for her long-term foster care work.
Rob and Mary’s three children have given them nine grandchildren aged from 10 to 25, but they have also retained a close relationship with many of their foster children and their families. One young girl that they fostered for a period of six weeks is now 37, and the godmother of one of the Rimoldi grandchildren. Another of their babies, Kylie, was a flower girl at their daughter’s wedding.
All children need love, security and care to thrive and for over forty five years the Rimoldis have provided this in abundance. In return, they speak of having received more joy and love than they could ever measure. It’s no wonder that they continue to do what they love through to today.
Rob and Mary Rimoldi are a shining example of the caring, compassionate and generous people who, with the support of CatholicCare and Family Spirit, help to nurture babies and children through the pre adoption program.
Are you interested in finding out more about fostering or adoption through Family Spirit? Get in touch today.