IT’S funny how life can change.
Three years ago at 25, life was racing along at a pace I could barely keep up with. I was working 70-hour weeks and powering through a seemingly unstoppable social life. It was busy, it was hectic, it was great — but there was always that lingering knowledge something more was about to come.
The front door creaks open. “We’re home” he calls out.
The excited footsteps continue through the house, and the cheeky smile of my 12-year-old son emerges around the doorway of my office: “Dad, I’ve got a surprise for you!”
He drops his school bag on the floor and starts rummaging through it. “Don’t look!” he says.
He searches some more and comes up with his treasured possession: a wooden shield, with the crest in the centre comprising of a small copper press image of a pokeball. He hands it to me, glowing with pride.
“I made it for you! Do you like it?” he asks.
There’s no questioning it. I love it.
He then trotts about the house to set himself up for his afternoon routine, preparing to get to work on his tutoring before we have Friday night take out and a movie night at home. It’s part of his routine. A routine that gives him stability, love and support — and gives us a sense of family.
How this all came to be is not a story you would usually expect. Most stories about gay families usually revolve around IVF treatments, surrogates, overseas trips and adoptions. Foster care is not an option many people consider when they think of same-sex parent families. The system is littered with horror stories, inaccuracies and assumptions. However, for us it has lead to a life of love and hope that we could never have expected.
In Queensland, our laws are slightly different to other states and for the most part couples I’ve spoken to have always told me that because they know it’s illegal for same-sex couples to adopt here, they had assumed fostering held the same restrictions.
While legally there are no restrictions, the differences in processes and intentions are what separate fostering from anything else. You don’t come into fostering with the intention of settling down and creating your own family so to speak, but it’s a system you enter because you’re prepared to do something for someone else. It’s a system that can be arduous and bogged down in paperwork and departmental mechanics, but it’s an experience you will never regret.
Our situation is rather unique. We didn’t know that we would end up with a child who would be with us for the rest of his childhood.
About 30 per cent of children in foster care never return home, with the other 70 per cent part of a reunification process.
Our son’s history is long and unpleasant, but his resilience and tenacity is astounding and his mind is sharp, remembering and questioning everything as only a child can and testing the boundaries around him to the best of his ability.
He took every opportunity to test these limits when he first moved in. Mornings turned into dramatic scenes like something from a movie. Asking him to brush his teeth meant that he would run away down the street, half undressed and screaming. Introducing consequences and boundaries within the house saw kicking and screaming, holes appearing in walls. There was also a day he decided to try and jump from his two-storey high bedroom window.
But we persevered.
When he came to us, he had lived in a residential care house, a small three-bedroom house where he lived alone, with no other children and only a handful of youth workers who would work shifts that started and finished at 2pm before the next would take over to care of him.
When we visited the house in the early days, it was one of the saddest places I’d ever visited.
Now, we have bought a house that we all call our own, complete with a sandpit and a large drooling canine. It’s not only our home, but the first home he has ever known.
He has his “dad” and “daddy” and for the first time in his life has come to know what it is to be loved. Through all the ups and the downs we’ve continued to love and support him and the terrible behaviour began to desist.
His life has changed and so has ours. The three of us have come together to create a family, in what was perhaps the least-expected manner. It’s been a long hard road, but worth every step.
So next time you consider your options for your future, have a think, is fostering something you could consider?