After discovering that pregnancy was not going to be possible, Sarah* and Adam* tried to convince themselves they would be happy building a different life together – one without children. But the couple found it impossible to lay their maternal and paternal instincts to rest.
After months of thinking and talking about the baby question, followed by periods of not talking about it and trying not to think about it, followed by more thinking and talking, Sarah and Adam began investigating other options to create their family.
Not having had any biological children previously, Sarah and Adam longed to care for a child from infancy. ‘Challenge Community Services told us straight up that we might have a long wait for a baby,’ Sarah explains. ‘First they placed Maddie* with us for respite care – she was two then. As soon as I saw her, I fell in love with her. Even after that short time, it was so hard to hand her back. I couldn’t bear the thought I would never see her again.’
Expecting to have a long wait, Sarah and Adam suddenly got a call that would change their lives and a child’s destiny forever
‘Four days after Maddie was returned to her carer, we got a call to say Maddie’s mother had just given birth to another little girl who needed a permanent home. Suddenly we were rushing to the hospital to pick up Maddie’s baby sister, Justine*!’
That was two years ago. Since then, the couple have taken Justine’s half-brother Toby*, now 11 months, into their care. Maddie, who is now 4, still lives with her other carer. ‘We all meet regularly at the playground or at our homes,’ says Sarah. ‘I think it’s so important they can all be together in a natural and relaxed environment. All three children also have contact with their birth mother about once a month.’
Sarah and Adam knew from the start that they wanted to progress from fostering to adoption. ‘There are still a lot of negative stereotypes and misconceptions around foster children,’ confirms Adam. ‘We completely respect that there are all kinds of wonderful foster carers and that not everyone wants to adopt. But we felt strongly that we didn’t want any child in our care to experience any stigma or exclusion, like not being able to be in the school photo because their name can’t be revealed.’
‘It’s easy to forget I’m a foster carer because I love Justine and Toby as if they were my own flesh and blood.’
Sarah describes her experiences as a foster carer as a ‘dream run’. ‘Justine and Toby’s birth mother is really grateful for what we’re doing and we’ve had no difficulties there,’ confirms Sarah, ‘On a day-to-day basis, I forget that I’m a foster carer – in my heart and in my mind, I am Mum,’ says Sarah. ‘I love Justine and Toby so much and would move Heaven and Earth for them. Then I will hit a brick wall and it jolts me back into reality.’
‘The worst was when we had to take Toby to Sydney for medical treatment,’ recalls Adam. ‘He was in hospital for six days and we needed to get back home to look after Justine. When we rang the hospital to ask about Toby, we were told we couldn’t get any information because we weren’t his next of kin. The only way we could find out whether he was getting better or worse was to travel back to Sydney to see him or wait until we could get the information through Challenge Community Services. As biological or adoptive parents we would have been able to get that information straight away from the hospital.’
Although Sarah and Adam are quick to say they are the lucky ones, Justine has been given the opportunity for a safe and stable forever family while still maintaining contact with her birth mother and her siblings. Once the adoption is finalised, Sarah and Adam will become parents for life, with the same rights as any biological parent. As for Toby, Sarah and Adam are hoping he will also become a permanent member of their family.
Are you ready to give a child or young person in need a safe and stable home life? There are 20,000 children in NSW in need of out-of-home care, many of them over 5. To find out more about how you can give a child in need a better life contact Challenge Foster Care on 1800 084 954 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Models used in photograph and names changed to protect privacy.