This is a guest blog post from Kulander as part of a paid sponsorship from Barnardos.
My name is Kulander and I’ve been fostering with Barnardos for over 10 years.
Back then I was living on my own here in Grays Point, a beautiful area on the fringe of the National Park. I was sick to death of going to clubs and pubs and doing all of that sort of thing. I guess I wanted to contribute to something beyond my own wellbeing, so I thought I’d try out doing respite foster care where you care for a child one weekend a month.
I knew Barnardos supports children, so I contacted them. The introduction to Barnardos was quite good, I came along to an information session and then started doing some of the training. When I was nearing the end of my training, one of the caseworkers came over to me and said, “Oh, we've got this urgent situation. Would you be able to take a child this weekend?”
So I said yes. I initially went over to where he was placed, just to meet him briefly, and then they brought him over to spend the weekend here. So that’s how I started providing respite care for Andrew when he was 7 years old.
He would spend the summer holidays here and I think it was about six months later they approached me again and said Andrew needed a permanent placement and if I’ve be interested in having him. I did think hard about it then I thought, “Well, yes, OK, I'll try it”. Then came was the exhaustive assessment period that you have to go through. At the end of it, I was successful, and he moved in back in April 2012. Ten years on he’s just turned 18.
As a single gay man, I've always felt accepted by Barnardos. I remember telling one of the workers who completed my assessment. “Oh last night I had a really weird dream where I was coming down the hallway to meet you, and I was in the dress with sequins all over it!” So we had a bit of a chuckle. I've always found all the workers at Barnardos to be very accepting.
My caseworker David has been truly fantastic. He's always been there to pick up the phone and just listen to whatever goes on. I now have Andrew’s younger brother living with me and he’s been very supportive of whatever suggestions I put forward for the placement and whatever our needs are. The level of support from Barnardos has been wonderful.
For me, because Andrew was already school aged, I was able to maintain full-time employment which was very important to me. I took some extended holiday leave while he settled in and then negotiated to work from home occasionally. We also utilise after-school care and vacation care so being a permanent foster carer doesn’t have a huge impact on my employment. Barnardos also provides a carer allowance to cover the cost of caring for the child.
For any people that are interested, especially gay people, all I can say is that it will change your life. And it'll be a pleasant change. Having Andrew in my care has connected me to the local community in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise because the kids go to school, they do soccer, they do all of the after-school activities. You end up sitting on the side of the soccer field each Saturday morning, you meet all the neighbours, you meet all of the other people in the area. And it's such a lovely warm sort of feeling that you get as a result of that. That's probably one of the biggest benefits I can see. I think it also keeps you current and contemporary with a lot of the youth issues and you get to learn all the new teenage language!
In terms of maintaining contact with friends as a permanent carer, I’m given respite care once a month, so I’m still able to maintain my links with my other friends in the city. I really am grateful to Barnardos because it's an opportunity that I've had that I wouldn't have been able to get in any other way.
To find out more about fostering contact Barnardos.