Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Barnardos Australia
Mark and Todd are foster carers with Barnardos Australia. They are currently caring for 3 children under 5 years of age. Here is their story.
“We’ve been together for eight and a half years and have been foster carers for a little over two years. Since 2012, we have provided both crisis and long-term foster care with Barnardos.
We really wanted to be parents but we thought we’d exhausted all the avenues. We’d looked into co-parenting with female friends and even surrogacy, but then we decided to look into fostering. Fostering had been bought to our attention years earlier, as we recall having foster children at school with us and one of our friends used to work for Barnardos and would encourage us to help out kids in need.
We went along to a Barnardos information night and it just confirmed our decision, so we began the application process. This included a short life history of each of us. We then went through 6 rounds of interviews with Barnardos, totalling 20 hours. Finally we received the news – we had been accepted as foster carers! All this took less than 6 months.
It was so wonderful when our first foster child came to stay with us. It was also a little scary as well. We had never parented before and here we were looking after another person’s child, particularly one who hadn’t spent the first few months of his life learning to trust us. We were concerned that the child may not bond to us – but on the day we met him, he just grabbed one of our legs – and we knew there was something there to work with. But he learnt to trust us and that we demonstrated that we would always be there for him.
About 6 months later, we took on his siblings as a crisis placement, which has now become long term. So, we now have 3 children in our care long term (until they are 18 years old).
We believe it is very important that these children have stability in our home, and at the same time maintain their identities by keeping some contact with their biological roots. Ideally, we would love to adopt all 3 of the children, and we have started the process to adopt the first child who came into our care. This process typically takes up to a couple of years.
The biggest change we’ve seen in the children is their increased sense of security and comfort in their living surrounds and their growing bonds with us. One of them in particular is a much happier now, with reports from those who have known him for most of his life expressing how he is much more outgoing and interactive he was prior to coming into our care, it’s great to see a regular smile now on all three faces.
Another big change is in their general health status, all three came to us requiring some type of additional health care, we really enjoy watching them grow and explore.
You definitely need to have patience and understanding to be a foster carer. Not just with the children themselves, but patience and understanding with people and circumstances that you might not normally have to deal with. But all this is worth it every time you see your child smile.
Without doubt, the best part of being a foster carer is the children. No matter what pressures you have in life, how you are feeling or any other type of negativity you experience in your day, when you come home to great big smiles, squeals of delight and hugs for your foster child, the world is turned right again.
Our friends and family are all very supportive. Our brothers and sisters have started to call themselves uncles and aunties to the children, our parents are Nan and Pop, and our friends are regularly buying new clothes and toys for the children. Out in the general community most people greet the news with a little bit of curiosity (what are you both called? How long do you have them for, etc) and generally we receive warm comments.
We receive a lot of support from Barnardos. We have a case worker who we speak with at least once a week in relation to the children but they are always on the end of the phone if ever we need them. There is also financial support from the agency as well.
Our advice to people in the gay community who are thinking about fostering is - do it! Look up the website, pick up the phone and start inquiring.
You can always start as a respite carer, where you have a child in your care for just one weekend a month, you may decide that it is the perfect fit for your lifestyle. Or you may want to help children in crisis on a short term basis or for the long term. There are many different options for how you can be involved with fostering children.
Ultimately, no matter what avenue of foster care you choose, you are changing the life of a child for the better.”