Damian and Brad

Keeping kids together – Damian and Brad's story

You can just really feel the impact that you're having on the children's lives every single day.

Damian introduced the idea of fostering to his husband Brad after realising just how many children needed a safe, loving home and the two are now caring for three young siblings. Their busy life looks completely different to what it did, but Brad says they wouldn't change it for the world.

The couple embarked on their fostering journey by attending an information session in their local area.

“It was really eye-opening,” Damian recalls. “We met a few other foster carers and started to understand there were so many different types of foster situations.”

The couple then had interviews and training and were linked to a non-government carer agency.

“The agencies are just a wealth of knowledge,” says Brad. “They are so well connected to the process and what everything looks like and how everything operates.”

Damian and Brad then started thinking about what type of placement and age range they were comfortable with. “We really wanted to try and take on a sibling group so that we could make sure they got to stay together,” says Damian.

But as an LGBTIQ+ couple, they were still cautious about taking that next step.

“Being part of a queer household,” says Damian, “you have these preconceived ideas in your head — are they going to let us have a kid because we're a gay couple?”

Brad had also wondered, “if we took on older kids, how would they feel about coming into a queer household? If we took on younger kids, how would the family feel about their kids being placed in a queer household?”

But the couple's fears were put to rest.

“What I learned through the process was that as long as you can show that you are capable, as long as you can provide a safe, stable, loving home, nobody actually cares what the makeup of your family looks like,” says Brad. “All that's important is that the children are cared for.”

Their first placement was a baby. Damian remembers the nerves and excitement they both shared when meeting the child for the first time, who was being cared for by a short breaks carer.

“We just instantly fell in love with him,” he says. “He's such a bubbly happy little kid who obviously had some really big challenges the first months of his life. We got to meet him, started building a bit of a relationship with him, and then he came and had a few overnight stays with us at first, so there was a bit of a transition period there for him.”

The child's two siblings have since been placed in Damian and Brad's care, aligning with the couple's goal to support a sibling group.

“Being a household with no kids to then grow into three kids, things for us have really, really changed,” Damian reflects. “We both work full-time as well.”

“Life is very, very busy,” agrees Brad. “The kids are in day care and school, and then you've got extracurricular activities and play dates and things happening all the time.”

Facilitating family contact with the children's biological parents is also a big part of the couple's role as foster carers.

“We wanted to build that relationship so that the kids could be connected to their biological family and know who they are,” says Damian. “Whether it be a FaceTime call or a phone call, or we meet up on the weekends. We have regular scheduled contact with mum and dad.”

Damian jokes that he and Brad often reflect on what they did with all the spare time they had before fostering three children. “But you just wouldn't have it any other way,” he says. “The thing I love most about my life now is the gratification that I get from seeing the kids grow and develop and to know that I'm helping support and initiate that.”

So how do they manage it all?

“It's all about routine,” says Damian. “We're really strict on our routine and making sure that we're really well planned and prepped so it all just goes as seamlessly as possible.”

“I guess one of the unknowns when you go into foster care is how much support you're actually going to get,” admits Brad. “You don't know whether you're just going to be thrown into it and have to work everything out for yourself and there's going to be no one around to help. And that's just completely untrue.”

Damian says how much ongoing support they received was one of their biggest surprises. “The department was always there through every stage, helping and supporting us.”

He also praises their agency. “We've got a dedicated support worker who'll come out and do visits with us, and we can talk about any challenges that we've got and they're just there to provide support.”

Brad explains there are different types of financial support provided by the department.

“There's the general foster care allowance, and that's designed to cover expenses related to caring for the children… like feeding them, clothing them, general activities you do with them. Our first placement had more complex needs, so there were further allowances that we were given.”

Damian adds that their agency provides ongoing training opportunities to help foster carers meet the challenges that arise when caring for children who have experienced trauma.

The couple look forward to their long future of fostering, including their hope to care for LGBTIQ+ youth and give them a safe, supportive environment.

Their advice for others interested in fostering is just believe that you can do it.

“It's a big thing,” says Brad. “There's a lot of unknowns, but at the end of the day, if you've got love, you've got capacity, you can do it.”

Damian acknowledges that a lot of people are hesitant to start caring because they'd feel sad when the placement ends. “But even if it's a really short period of time, you're giving that kid a positive influence or a positive relationship that they might not have got elsewhere,” he says.

“The biggest thing that I get out of foster care is this overwhelming sense of love and accomplishment,” reflects Brad. “You can just really feel the impact that you're having on the children's lives, every single day.”

“We're so glad that we took that jump because you can really easily talk yourself out of it,” says Damian. “Bite the bullet and go for it because you just never know where that could lead. It's been the greatest and the hardest thing we've ever done, but definitely the most rewarding.”

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