Meet Chris & Sophiaan
The couple has been together for over ten years and married in Queenstown, New Zealand, in 2015. After years of on-and-off consideration of fostering, Chris and Sophiaan began the process by attending a Life Without Barriers' information evening.
How was the process of becoming foster carers as an LGBTQIA+ couple?
"We came away from that feeling very positive, and we began the registration process," Chris says.
"It moved forward fairly quickly after the assessments began and then we became accredited."
"While we were doing the Life Without Barriers training, we met with other same-sex couples," Sophiaan adds.
"We're not the only gays in the village."
Why did you decide to become foster dads?
"As a same sex male couple, our opportunities were limited, but we both always felt the desire to nurture and support children and young people and did this in various ways through our work." Says Chris.
"Fostering eventually felt like a natural development, but it was important for us that we waited until we felt we were in the right place in life to be able to prioritise the care of a young person, before we jumped in,"
"We took our time building a home environment that was safe, supportive and nurturing. We try to instil structure as much as possible and above all model loving, affectionate and respectful behaviours at all times," echoes Sophiaan.
"Family has always been really important to us."
"I really love children, and I do know that, being in a same sex relationship, our options, when it comes to having children, are very limited. My idea of my role is much clearer now. It's not about adoption; it's not about having a surrogate child; it's about providing stability for the child."
As foster carers, do you think it is important to be agile and responsive?
"Absolutely. A child with a background of trauma will gradually unfold and grow in the right environment, and we know that being flexible and prepared for whatever comes, as part of that process, is essential." Share Chris.
"The child we care for has gradually become more comfortable sharing his emotions and vulnerabilities. It is all just about time and building trust,"
"It is vital for us to show respect to the child we care for, as well as model it in our own partnership. We always try to respect privacy, personal preferences and the need for time and space when indicated." says Sophiaan.
"Above all, we respect him as a human being with complex needs and wants, fears and vulnerabilities."
How do you handle challenging moments as foster parents?
Chris and Sophiaan acknowledge that challenging behaviours tend to surface a couple of days leading up to a major event.
"We don't always know what is going to be major, but we have begun to recognise the behaviours and use them as an invitation into carefully scaffolded conversations to support the child we care for." Shares Chris.
"We have moved towards an increased ability to name and articulate some of the difficult emotions he struggles with,"
But they both agree that the joys far outweigh any challenges.
"Just watching him in moments of unfettered joy is all the reward we need. We love introducing him to new and exciting experiences and observing his hesitation give way to excitement, and then enjoyment." Says Sophiaan.
"It's an absolute privilege to play a role in helping him reshape his relationship with the world in a positive way,"
What would you say to people who are interested in becoming foster carers?
"Everyone's path is unique, but for us it was important to take the time to assess and explore our motivations and expectations and feel as sure as possible that we were ready to give our all to this process." Says Chris.
"We knew how unsettling and changeable the lives of so many children in care are. We knew we would only take the leap once we were sure that any child who became a part of our family would be a welcome part of our family for as long as they needed to be, not as long as we could manage."
"I would advise anyone considering this path to have lots of conversations with the people they value and respect in their lives." Says Sophiaan.
"Expose yourselves to stories of children in care and the potential challenges of the fostering role.
"I'd say listen to both your head and your heart and if you decide you have room in your life, your home, your family, your heart, you'll be in for an amazing adventure."
Has being foster parents changed your relationship?
"I see my husband in a new light and have a deepened respect and admiration for him, not only as my partner, but as an amazing parent," shared Chris.
"In my own parenting role, I have found a willing partner in random silliness, someone with whom to share my passion for everyday adventure and a focus for the outpourings of unconditional love and nurture that I thought would never find full expression."
"It continues to be a great privilege being foster carers. And we thank Life Without Barriers for the opportunity," chorus this wonderful couple.
Got more questions?
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