Twenty-four-year-old Ashley Nielsen doesn't believe her story is any more remarkable or unusual than many around the country.
But, how many teenagers put their hand up to become the kinship carer for a challenged and troubled eight-year-old boy.
While her friends were out partying and having fun, Ashley became a full-time 'mum' at 21 years to brother Jessie after his shared guardians could no longer adequately care for him.
But nurturing was almost second nature to Ashley, who was forced to grow up quickly as her mother battled mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse.
"I had always cared for my mum and brothers." (Ashley has three other younger brothers from the area.)
Following the death of mum, Tracey, who tragically died as a result of a gas bottle explosion in Little Street, Forster in 2011, Jessie was cared for by two men who both believed they were the boy's father.
One day he was splashing in the water and told me that it was the best day ever.Ashley Nielsen
However, the 'family' situation began to unravel when accommodation was lost and Jessie and his dad were forced to live in a car.
Then in September of 2018, his father was sentenced to jail for drug-related charges. Jessie remained in the care of the other 'dad'.
At the same time Jessie's health deteriorated, he rarely attended school and became an angry, confused youngster.
From kindergarten to Year 3 Jessie had only attended one term of class, and was often put into a behaviour class.
It was later determined he had a vision issue which was quickly rectified after being prescribed glasses.
He was a little boy who never had clean clothes, or shoes, a bedroom, let alone his own bed; he was a youngster with little love and no guidance, Ashley said.
Jessie had never been taught how to perform everyday, simple tasks such as tying shoelaces, brushing teeth or using a knife and fork.
Even after Ashley moved to Newcastle to complete her education, she continued to play a big role in his life, visiting him often, taking him on excursions and day trips, to doctor and dentist appointments.
Ashley recalled an emotional moment during a rare visit to the beach: "One day he was splashing in the water and told me that it was the best day ever."
He had always lived in Forster, she said.
You may also like to read:
"It made me so sad."
When Jessie first came into Ashley's care it was initially for six weeks, which then expanded to six months and then a year.
Today, Jessie has caught up at school and is working at the same academic level as his peers, plays sport and has many hobbies.
But, more importantly he is living in a stable, loving environment with Ashley and her fiance Daniel.
"Caring for Jessie gives me a sense of responsibility and purpose."
Ashley and Jessie's story is almost a mirror image.
However, school was Ashley's happy place, despite being bullied in her younger days.
Ashley made what she described as wonderful, supportive friends and had the backing of her teachers at Forster Public School and Great Lakes College Forster and later Tuncurry.
"The teachers would look after me; I was really lucky.
"I was able to speak out and not feel embarrassed or horrified."
Ashley, who is in her final year of a four year Bachelor of Education (Primary) at Newcastle University, has been assisted along her education journey with funding from the Great Lakes Education Fund.
At the same time she has established a successful photography business and has put her experiences as a foster child and the product of an unstable family working as a youth worker.
Next year Ashley and Daniel, will apply for legal guardianship of the much loved 11-year-old Jessie.
Thank you for valuing local journalism with your subscription. While you're with us, you can also receive updates straight to your inbox from the Great Lakes Advocate. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.