Rebecca and Bree
"You just want to protect them from the instability and the uncertainty."
Meet Rebecca and Bree
Rebecca and Bree's home in New South Wales picturesque Blue Mountains is full of love. They are the biological mothers of two beautiful daughters (Claudia – age 4 & Thea – age 6 months) as well as being foster and respite carers for Life Without Barriers. They currently provide long-term foster care to a young lad in high school and recently cared for his older sister who has now transitioned into independent living.
When asked about their busy schedule as both mothers and carers they said, "Some weeks are hectic and tiredness does set it. Ultimately though, everyone in the family benefits from the range of activities and opportunities we can all access both as individuals and as a family group. The key is to make sure that you keep something for yourself, even if it's just that one hour at the gym where you can re-energise and enjoy something that's just for you."
Bree and Rebecca have found so many different and creative ways to integrate their biological children with their foster children."We have gone to heaps of musicals! There is something magic about music and the theatre that immediately breaks down barriers. We do arts, crafts and photobooks to help document shared experiences and their feelings as well," they said. "Our eldest child, Claudia, has met a few children in care. She's always accepted them for however long they stay, though we did find that after she turned two it became important to offer her stability through a long-term placement."
Rebecca and Bree are rare and amazing beings indeed. It would seem they have a never ending abundance of love to give. They have been carers with Life Without Barriers since 2007 and during that time have provided care for over 70 children – one 9 year old long-term placement, many sibling groups and children for respite, and cared and nurtured children that have ranged in age from two days old to 17 years old. And it seems caring for others runs in the family as Rebecca's mum used to be a Foster Carer.
"My mum passed away a few years ago, but she is the reason that I first thought about becoming a carer. When I was a teenager and my older brothers had grown up and left the house, she wanted to share the space we had with someone a similar age to myself. Things didn't work out at that time, but several years later when I was 23, she fostered a teenage girl who had been living in residential care because there hadn't been enough carers available. While that girl was still living with my mother, Bree and I started doing some research about how to become carers ourselves. The empty bedrooms in our house were just sitting there; we needed to make good use of them." Bree said that when they decided to become foster carers they researched ‘gay friendly' foster care agencies in Australia and that is how they found Life Without Barriers.
"At the time Life Without Barriers were a new agency in the area, so we called and went through all the training and that answered lots of questions we had about fostering. We found the training very worthwhile and you learn a lot about yourself as well. It's quite a cathartic process."
When asked if they had ever encountered any prejudices as same sex mums and foster carers, Bree said, "I found some agencies to be more open than others. A lot of people think Rebecca and I are sisters, but when the penny finally drops everyone is cool with it and think it's great. The wonderful Life Without Barriers staff have advocated for us in those brief moments where people react bizarrely and it's never been anything of major concern." What also stands out about Rebecca and Bree is how honest and practical they are when talking about their role as mothers and carers. They admitted that there is always challenges fostering, but the rewards far outweigh any frustrations.
Rebecca said, "Seeing children being nervous and anxious when going through the system can be upsetting at times. You just want to protect them from the instability and the uncertainty. So many of them come to you believing that no one wants them, or they assume that you won't love them. You know that being a foster carer means visits with the birth families. It can be challenging sometimes, but that is a part of loving a caring for that child for a short time before reuniting them with their biological family."
Bree added, "Don't be disheartened if you have a first bad experience, take the positives away with you. Go into it with an open and caring heart, it's well worth it. Not every day is easy, but it's brought a real sense of purpose to our lives and it will for you too. These kids need you!"
Long-term care for 6-11 year olds
Grandmother and respite carer Elaine believes the relationships with the children in her care hinge on trust and respect.
Colleen and Steve
Long term carers for 17 and 3 year old girls.
Colleen and Steve are a gentle couple who were inspired by Colleen's brother, a foster carer of many years, to become carers themselves.