Ted and Dave
"While most of the children in care have been damaged in some way you will find that the joys far outweigh the sorrows"
Meet Ted and Dave
Ted and Dave share a remarkable story - they have shared their love and their home as Life Without Barriers foster carers and now...fathers. Their story starts as a committed and long-term couple from the Northern Rivers in NSW who never thought (because of their sexuality) they could have children. This was heart-breaking for both of them.
"We both became carers as we both had issues at different stages of our lives as to how as a gay couple we were unable to have children of our own. Both of us went through a grieving process about this. We also thought that we had a lot to offer children in need of care not only financially but also in terms of love and security. We have been together since 1979 and are very stable," says Dave. When they found out about the foster care program through Dave's line of work, they were overcome with emotion.
"It was a very emotional time. We both ended up on the floor sobbing and hugging each other. We committed ourselves to the foster care course and soon welcomed our first short-term foster child into our home. We were the first gay male carers in the Northern Rivers and later in 2013 we became the first gay carers to adopt in regional NSW," says Dave.
Incredibly, Ted and Dave have been foster carers since 2000 - first with DOCS and FACS and they have been with Life Without Barriers since 2015. They have fostered three long-term children and 20 short-term or respite care children in that time.
One of their respite foster children has fond memories of the time spent in the kitchen. He said Ted's exotic authentic Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes that he served up were great – preferring Ted's cooking to Dave's meat and three veg! Poor Dave!!
At home currently they have a teenage girl in long-term foster care and their 20 year old adopted daughter, Corina. Life Without Barriers case manager Jane Laidlaw says, Ted and Dave are very different characters, they seem to really complement each other. They also have a wonderful sense of humour that works very well with children. They have treated the 13 year old male they had on respite with great respect, focussing on all the positives he brings to their lives. They are protective of their two girls, but open to enhancing the whole family's lives by opening their door to other children."
When asked about any challenges or judgement that they have received being LGBTQI (gay) carers they said, "The amount of support we have received from both Life Without Barriers and DOCS/FACS has been amazing to say the least. There have only been two cases of prejudice that we aware of amongst the local community. Both of these people were ‘closed down' by well-respected members of the community and to those people we are grateful."
Dave says, "Young people generally do not have the prejudices that their parents may have and respond to love as it is given. I remember once our daughter told us that someone on her school bus asked her if we went 'clubbing', (I was 60 at the time). She answered ‘No, they let me ride show ponies and take me on holidays instead.' Boom!
Corina added, "From the age of four when I first came to live here, I have never once felt that I have been judged differently as a child because I have gay Dads. Parenting is not exclusively the traditional husband and wife model. Parenting is about love' and I have experienced that by the truck load."
When asked about the most challenging part of being foster carers Ted says, "Sometimes my heart breaks when a child discloses the trauma that has occurred to them in their short lives. I tend to burst into tears, while Dave sympathises and assures them that what happened to them then will not happen to them here. I think they know that both responses come from love." Dave says that it is sometimes a challenge to deal with the difficult behaviour from some children because of the dysfunction they have suffered. He says, "I face it with honesty and stay child focussed the whole time."
"It is incredibly rewarding watching them progress through the ranks and develop a caring and professional relationship with their horse. They have won accolades for their riding along the way, but more importantly have healed and become well-rounded people, not afraid to work hard to achieve their dreams," says Dave.
"Even the children who come to us for respite care have some involvement with the horses on the property. We have a sign up on the back veranda which says that ‘Horses are Good for the Soul' - in our experience this is true!" adds Ted.
Ted and Dave, both agree that one of the most rewarding experiences of being foster carers (and fathers) is getting in contact with your own inner child. "When was the last time you went diving to the bottom of the pool to retrieve some object thrown in by your partner in competition with your children, rode the big dipper with them, or hung upside down on a monkey bar, eventually falling off from laughing too hard? Shared experiences to me are the most rewarding of all," says Dave.
When asked about the advice they would give people who are interested in becoming foster carers, they both said, "Go into it with an open heart. While most of the children in care have been damaged in some way you will find that the joys far outweigh the sorrows. Remain child focused at all times and don't be afraid to ask case managers at Life Without Barriers for help if needed."
Dave also added, "Knowledge, patience, a well-developed sense of humour, constructive compassion, dedication and spending time the children in your care will also bring great rewards. The ability to look at the ‘big picture' always helps too. Go for it! Not only will you find it extremely rewarding but you will be making a great contribution to your community and particularly to the children who come into your care."
Andrea and Colin
Long term care for kids with complex needs
With three boys having flown the nest, carers Colin and Andrea felt like they still had a lot of love to give. They now care permanently for two primary school age children.
Long-term care for kids of all ages
Barbara is an Aboriginal woman who has a background in disability and mental health nursing. Barbara has been a long-term foster carer for a young person with disability.