When I was a teenager I read this really great series of books, a sci-fi series about an alien invasion, funnily enough the same series our son is now reading, the characters in the books were telling their stories but having to keep their identities a secret so they weren’t discovered, which is kind of the premise of this blog, a way to share our story, while keeping our identities protected, but sadly, no aliens.
Now I feel like I’ve set the tone for some great adventure novel, a gripping and dangerous story! Forgive me if I’ve led you astray, I think our story is worth telling and hopefully you stay with us to read it through, our story is simple, it’s about about our little family, made up of just two ordinary dads and our (highly opinionated) son.
It’s a common question when we introduce James as our son to people “Oh, that’s lovely! So when did you adopt him?” and from there a dismissive response that doesn’t articulate the situation is often easiest to provide, but often we find ourselves telling the story of how we came to become foster carers and in turn a family, a situation that has arisen with large similarities to adoption, but also vast differences. We hope by telling this side to our story that perhaps more people will become motivated to become foster carers as well.
There are some things you will always remember clear as day for many years to come and the day we decided to become foster carers was one of them. Lacking in the natural beauty you may be expecting to come of this situation we were actually driving home from the movies on a Saturday afternoon chatting about our future, after a relationship heading towards the pointy end of a decade and an engagement just shy of 12 months old, the talk of children and the rest of our lives together was the topic of this trip. Given the lovely state we reside in within Australia, adopting a child for heterosexual couples is a logistical and expensive nightmare at the best of times and a legal impossibility for a gay couple, so our discussion moved to surrogacy and those options presented to us. By no stretch of the truth many of our very wonderful close friends had offered their services to us in aid of helping us to bring a child in to this world over the years and we began to talk about these people and those options. We quite honestly couldn’t find a situation we were equally comfortable with. Amongst that discussion was the morality of bringing a child in to the world when we have the opportunity to provide for a child who is already in need, an interesting point that led us in an alternate direction. After a lengthy discussion as to whether we could actually legally be foster carers we simply turned to the wisest person in the car and asked Google. Falling short of a detailed accurate answer he was able to provide us with the phone number for the governments foster care department, which we called on the spot and left a message to be returned at a later date.
Some days later I was surprised with a call from the department who completed a simple 20 minute phone interview on our motivations to become carers, after our interview she forwarded our details to their register of foster care agencies and within a few weeks a flyer had arrived in the mail inviting us to attend an information evening. With some trepidation we arrived and were welcomed with open arms and discovered some great information regarding becoming carers, most notably that being gay was NOT an issue, our professional and personal life skills were of more interest and with our background in health and education we were regarded as primary candidates for becoming carers. Most surprising of all was that anyone can quality as a foster carer, you can be:
- Full Time Employed
- Carers can care for children Full Time, Part Time or even act as respite carers (every 2nd weekend etc)
The criteria was only around your skills and ability to care for a child who had experienced trauma, which nearly all children in care have. We found there was extensive training provided (nearly 9 months of training, interviews and assessments took place!), personnel support, financial support and even emotional support to ourselves as carers and the children in our care.
What we really took from a lot of that training was the knowledge and understanding that most children in care, will return to the care of their families and loved ones at some point, whether this be a matter of weeks from entering your care or even up to 2 years, but the process is always focussed on reunification with the families, making your role as a carer absolutely vital in helping to re-establish positive relationships between the children and their families. We learned that nearly 70% of children will return to home, while just 30% will remain in long term care until they come of age.
What was funny was this training and information prepared us to realistically understand that you don’t become a foster carer because you want to have a child of your own, you do it so that you can help to have a positive influence in a young person’s life. They prepare you to understand that this is not “your child”, but you are there to love them and care for them as your own.
It’s funny because we weren’t to know that we would in fact end up in that 30% and end up bringing a child in to our home who would not return to live anywhere else, we would actually end up as a family.
I want to go in to greater detail, but I dont want to tell everything in one post and make things too lengthy, but I want to continue to tell our story and let people know just how beautiful and incredibly difficult this can be. We’ve had so many highs and lows I look forward to sharing them with you all.
For now perhaps I can share with you a snapshot of our life as it stands. I’m sitting here writing his as our son sleeps in his room, he’s been reading Harry Potter for most of the afternoon since we got home and has finally tired and fallen asleep. We’ve come back from a lunch for my nephews birthday where he has been playing and running around with the rest of our family who accept him as one of our own. He loves playing in the backyard at home, which he didn’t get to today, he’ll spend hours in the sandpit digging and shovelling and calling out “Dad! Daddy!” and dragging us out to show us something he dug up. Keeping him company in the yard is our family dog, with whom he has developed a unique bond, as he plays she stands guard, sitting in the sand pit or patrolling the fence line.
He chose some time ago to stop calling us by our names and instead chose to select us each one as “Dad” and the other as “Daddy”, something he indignantly corrects us on if one responds to the incorrect title “No (he pouts), I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to DAD, you’re DADDY!”. He attends school as normal, but he struggles with his work, in the afternoons we spend lots of time working with him on his handwriting, spelling and his maths, all of which he struggles with (the metaphor of “herding cats” is most appropriate). After a life of inconsistent care he has fallen behind and we work hard to help him catch up. He’s no angel and like all children gets in his fair share of trouble. He is cheeky, adorable and knows how to get his own way with anyone! But he is loved and for the first time in his life is really beginning to feel and understand it. He has become our son and we live together, as a family.
I hope to keep this up to date and continue writing, the journey to get where we are now has been so long, I could write for weeks and weeks on end. I hope you’ll stay with us and come back to read more.