Jason and Luke were initially looking to adopt a child from overseas when they discovered long-term foster care. They're now foster parents to a primary schooler, with Christmas, a wedding – and maybe volcanoes – on the horizon.
Finding another reason to feel so joyful at Christmas
Couple Luke and Jason were attending an information session for overseas adoptions when they learned about long-term foster care through progressive Catholic welfare organisation Centacare.
Thinking about becoming a foster carer?
Find out more here.
Centacare Foster Care provides immediate, short-term, long-term and respite care for children, who have been removed from their families, aged 0-17 years. A child might need short-term care when their family is in crisis, with the carer giving the family the space they need to work towards positive change before being reunited. For some children, this is not an option due to safety reasons and other challenges, and therefore long-term care is arranged.
“We stumbled across it by accident more than anything,” Luke says. “I’d always considered fostering to be short-term.”
“One of the things we really liked about local fostering is the child can maintain contact with their birth family. Whereas, with overseas adoption, they’re losing that whole connection with their family unit or culture.”
It’s been seven months since Luke and Jason were matched with their foster child, adding an energetic primary schooler to their family. For privacy reasons, the child’s name, age and gender aren’t disclosed here.
Jason and Luke appreciate the importance of birth family connections and are committed to supporting their foster child with ongoing contact through monthly meetups organised by the Department for Child Protection (DCP) with their foster child’s mother and share updates through photos, video and letters.
“Initially, I was very apprehensive of what it would be like to see the birth family. But it’s been quite positive,” Luke says.
Jason was less anxious about it. The UK native’s mother was in care as a baby while Jason’s grandmother struggled with chronic illness.
“Mum had a foster carer down the road and she sort of flitted between the both – now she maintains two amazing families,” Jason says, adding that it influenced his decision to be a long-term foster carer.
“It wasn’t so daunting to me because Mum loves having this big, elaborate, extended family and I know it can work.
“Our child knows this is home now and feels safe in having that wider network, which includes the previous carer.”
As to be expected, there were challenges during the first months, as Luke explains.
“It was a lot for our child to deal with initially, because they changed homes, carers, pets, schools, friends. Everything changed in the space of a week and a half of meeting us.”
Taking in a young child who has their own likes, dislikes and habits – rather than being a ‘mini me’ – has changed the couple’s priorities in a good way.
“We’re no longer the centre of our own universe, they are the priority and you adapt your life around them,” Luke says. “Having a child around brings so much joy to the house and it brings out your inner child to do things that are a lot of fun.”
He says it’s been “an interesting experience getting to know someone who’s living with you”. Growing vegetables together has meant a preference for pizza and “things from the freezer” is gradually giving way to self-picked carrots, fresh food and a newfound interest in cake making.
“We baked an orange and green cake for Halloween and put black icing on it and just went silly. I hid the bananas in that because you do what you got to do to get fruit and veg into them,” Luke says.
Throughout the assessment process, Centacare supports prospective foster carers with comprehensive training. What most resonated with Luke was the understanding of the trauma children may have faced and the systemic issues that can see multiple generations of families end up in some form of state care.
“It’s quite easy to feel like you could judge the parents, but they may not really have been given a chance either,” Luke says. “Understanding the backstories of the backstories is really helpful.”
Jason, who worked for several years as childcare educator, says Centacare’s training in SpACE (Safety, playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy) as a response to trauma-based behaviours was invaluable, helping the couple communicate more clearly with their child a trauma-informed approach and de-escalate pain-based behaviours.
In the first weeks, the couple couldn’t leave the room without their child calling out to ask where they were and, like many parents, they spent plenty of nights soothing them back to sleep.
Jason’s own background has provided him with a rich experience, which positioned him well to initially take the lead on how the couple responded to any difficult behaviours, but he says they’ve found a shared parenting style as they went on.
“Luke’s brilliant and actually has taught me a lot of things, like maybe I don’t need to be strict sometimes,” Jason says, reflecting that their child’s growing sense of security has enabled the couple to be “more authentic” in themselves and relax into parenting.
Fundamental to this has been them working as team, allowing each other time out and maintaining fitness and other important friendships and relationships in their lives.
“Although we’re quite different, we complement each other well,” Luke says.
Working full-time outside the home, he gets one-on-one time by doing the reading before school and bed. As well as school readers, they’re working through the ‘Weirdo’ book series by Ahn Doh and encyclopaedias from the school library.
“We love learning facts. We read books about natural disasters and volcanoes,” Luke says laughing. “We have to discuss them.”
“And now it’s like, ‘I want to go to Hawaii. Can we go to Hawaii, please?’”
As a family, they went to Palm Cove in Queensland to see rainforests and crocodiles. Dangerous animals are another favourite reading topic.
For foster carers, interstate and overseas holidays are possible with the approval of DCP.
With Luke and Jason marrying next year, they’re also planning a honeymoon and future trips together.
Meanwhile, life at home is happy and settled, and Jason shares that there’s a bit of cheeky critiquing of his P-plater driving and cooking.
“Our child says to me, ‘why do you drive like that? Why don’t you drive like Luke?’
“And if the food comes out, it’s like, ‘oh, it’s a bit hard today, Jason’.
“Now they feel so comfortable and safe that they will tell us their opinion.”
This will be their first Christmas with each other and they’re planning to make their own Christmas stockings – including three for their rescue cats – and decorate the tree together.
It’s these little things that bring joy, says Luke – and they’re experiences the new family are all looking forward to.