JESSICA Harrison has lost count of the number of children she’s educated and cared for at home during the past four decades.

The 64-year-old Mildura mother and grandmother first opened her doors as a Family Day Care Educator in November, 1981.

What began as an opportunity to work from home while looking after her own children, soon evolved into a passion for nurturing our region’s youngest residents.

“I would have worked with more than 200 different families over the years,” Mrs Harrison said.

“That’s the special thing about Family Day Care.

“You don’t just get to know the children, you develop a bond with their entire families, and vice-versa.”

Having just clocked up her 40th year in the job, Jessica said her pending retirement was bittersweet.

“We’re looking forward to hopefully going away on some trips, but it will be a big change,” she said.

“You get attached to the children and the families along the way.

“And there’s been a lot of them over the years!”

Community Health and Wellbeing Portfolio Councillor, Cyndi Power, congratulated Jessica on her incredible milestone.

“Over the past 40 years, Jessica has touched the lives of hundreds of local children and provided a safe and fun place for them to learn, grow and develop,” Cr Power said.

“Family Day Care Educators are a special breed and Jessica is no exception.

“We wish her all the best as she transitions to retirement later this month.”

Jessica said Council’s Family Day Care Coordination Unit provided great support to educators like herself, with training, resources and ongoing contact.

“I also couldn’t have done this for so long without the support of my husband Col,” she said.

“He has been as much a part of this journey as me.

“Our whole family has.”

Thanks to Family Day Care, the couple’s two children Michael and Laura always had playmates in the house growing up and formed life-long friendships along the way.

“We’ve attended the 21st birthdays and weddings of some of the children we’ve cared for, and even looked after some of their children,” Jessica said.

“It’s been a huge part of our lives.”

Jessica is one of 31 registered Family Day Care Educators currently caring for children in the Mildura Council and Wentworth Shire areas.

Like her counterparts, who are all qualified in Early Childhood Education and Care, first aid, asthma and anaphylaxis management, Jessica is able to set her own hours and days of work.

“Having the flexibility to work when it worked for my family and I has been great,” she said.

By JOHN DOOLEY