Many years ago now, I trained to be a foster carer in Queensland. You see, I couldn’t have children and then after my divorce came through I was very much alone, in a big three bedroom home. I thought I could provide a good home and transfer all the care I had inside me to a young person in need.
I applied, was accepted to do the training and went along to the sessions. I know it is an under-funded area. I can only image how stressed out the current staff is, but my experience only reinforced that it was an area in some crisis.
Before I started the course
I was locked in to attend the evening training, but the week before I got a call from the ‘Department’ asking me if I could take a child needing an urgent placement.
I panicked … I couldn’t … I didn’t know what to do. I had not prepared the house, made any arrangements with work and I didn’t know how to handle a child in crisis … yet. I figured they were in crisis even calling upon me.
A week later I started the training. During the process, my house was also inspected. The ‘inspector’ moved from room to room. I had my desk set up in the second room and was told that if I was assigned two children, they would both need their own room.
I could understand this of teenagers, but I was surprised that young children who were already frightened by the new environment would be keen for their own room. It seemed unrealistic to me. I naively thought they would be happy to have a safe roof over their head regardless of sharing.
Like this, many little niggling things came up over the course of the training. I found it amazing that a child who is need of being removed from a home should have so many demands in their new home (or was that an unrealistic Department?)
The training provided
I met some wonderful people from all walks of life who were there like me, to open our homes and hearts to children. But one thing that was constantly reinforced during the training really distressed me – the children want to go home to their parents, they don’t want to stay with you.
I understand why this was emphasised and the instructor reinforced this numerous times during the night, making sure we understood that it was temporary. This wasn’t adoption. Don’t get attached.
I don’t know how to do that.
Attachment and other feelings
A couple who came to speak with us told us that after having a child since birth, the father was now ready to take him back. He was three-years-old. I can understand the right of the father, but this little boy only ever knew the security of the home he was in – these were his parents. How would he cope with this? How would his foster parents cope with losing him?
I did my own research and found instances where children didn’t want to go back to their places of origin – they felt safe and secure in their new homes. But of course there were children who wanted to as well.
I am no expert and I know this system must be better than an orphanage – at least the child is in a home with a family and a caring one at that. But I can’t help thinking about:
- The families (and there are some) that are doing it for the money – sad but true;
- The children who become more and more displaced and distressed as they are pulled in and out of different homes;
- The people like me who desperately wanted to adopt but can’t, and the children who need us.
The Qld Government determined I couldn’t be a parent
When married, my husband and I investigated adoption. He was deemed to old by the time the system got round to him and we were told there was no point applying. It was ‘not allowed’ when I wanted to adopt as a single person and overseas adoption was pie in the sky – just ask anyone who has ever tried. It is against the law to attempt to privately arrange an adoption.
The Adoption and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 was introduced into Parliament on 14 September 2016 (yes, only now) which expands eligibility criteria to include same-sex couples, single persons and people undergoing fertility treatment. These changes have not yet been made. Any changes to Queensland law are subject to the Queensland Parliamentary process.
Let’s hope those waiting are not in aged homes before it is passed.
If I moved to Victoria, I could have adopted through some of their community/church programs, but then I would have had no support from my own network. And my adopted child would not grow up in the bosom of my family.
I wish I could have walked into an orphanage and given some children a home. I wasn’t looking for a baby – I could have taken siblings of any ages. But it is what it is.
After the training
So, I finished the training, and then nothing happened.
Months went by. Perhaps it is a good sign that I wasn’t needed. Eventually, I met someone and I withdrew from the program. I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters instead and did some ‘big sistering’.
I ran into another couple who did the course with me and they had also withdrawn. The process had left them daunted.
I don’t know. I am only speaking from my perspective, but I know I could have provided a protected, loving and nurturing environment.
I think we all missed out.