WHEN it comes to providing love, care and education in bringing up the state's 18,000 foster children, volunteer foster parents are the front line.
These parents are enlisted by the 37 registered non government organisations (NGOs) contracted by the NSW government to get the job done.
But according to the president of the Foster Carer Association NSW Inc, Patray Moncacha, carers are treated like second-class citizens.
The system doesn't even know how many foster parents there are, let alone whether or not they get a fair deal.
"It's unbelievable isn't it?" Ms Moncacha, herself a foster parent, said.
"We know how many dogs and cats there are, but nobody knows how many foster parents there are."
Her own research suggests that there are about 5000 carers working for 37 NGOs, plus around another 2000 respite carers hired to give foster mums and dads a break from their 24/7 responsibilities.
"The NGOs are all very secretive of each other. It's commercial competition, you see, so they don't know. The government should know all this but seems oblivious."
She said the current culture is almost like slave trading.
"Carers are open to allegations but they are not entitled to legal aid and they have no representatives or rights.
"NGOs are are not obliged to show us the results of Client Assessment Tools (CATS) on the children so how do we know when we are told by an NGO that our child is a general assessment that it is the truth?
"Carers are legally recognised as employees yet we don't get wages, holiday pay, worker's comp, sickness benefits, super, or even the humble recognition of being recorded on a register.
"We need the government to start looking very seriously at where this funding is going because it is supposed to support children in need, yet most of it is going on management," she said.
Ms Moncacha is calling for all carers to join her organisation and fight for a fair deal.
Go to fcansw.org.au.