Travis and Chris
"When she first came to live with us, she would hide behind us and would not talk to anyone. Now she introduces herself to everyone she meets."
Meet Travis and Chris
Family is very important to Travis and Chris. A few years ago they got to a point where they wanted children in their life, and were exploring options for how to do it. Legislation at the time did not allow same-sex couples to adopt, so that was not available to them. Then they started to explore the idea of becoming foster carers and it made more and more sense to them.
While they were going through the training process to become foster carers with Life Without Barriers, Travis' mum approached them and told them that Travis' then 11 year old niece needed a home and would they consider caring for her. Travis and Chris were unsure at first as it never occurred to them that they would be caring for a relative. However, they soon decided to open their home to their niece and they haven't looked back.
Travis and Chris explained that it was a bit of an upheaval for all three of them, at first. "Our niece had lived in the country and she moved to Adelaide to live with us, so it took a while for her to settle in," Travis said.
There was no honeymoon period for us!" Travis laughed as he talked about the time when his niece moved in – often when children first come into a new home, they can be very quiet until they have established trust with their carers and then the difficult behaviour comes out. That didn't happen for Travis and Chris! "We thought - if this is the honeymoon, what is she really like? But then after a few months, she settled down."
Travis and Chris explained that when their niece first came to their home, they made sure she knew she was part of the family and that this was now her home too. "We made long term plans with her," they said. They also involved her in decorating her new bedroom. "She could pick out whatever she wanted! And we said that's your place – no one can go in there unless they get permission."
Their niece has now been in their care for three years and Chris and Travis have seen her flourish. "Seeing her change and mature has been one of the biggest highlights," Travis said.
"When she first came to live with us, she would hide behind us and would not talk to anyone. Now she introduces herself to everyone she meets," Travis said. "When she was in year 7, she had to do a speech in front of the whole school assembly and she did that without a problem. Just little things like that are actually quite big for us.
"When she came to live with us, she was always fighting with us and withdrawn. Now she can talk about her emotions and name them, rather than acting out."
However, as with any teenagers, there are challenges. Travis and Chris laugh about a trip to Disneyland that they went on with their niece, where she did not want to leave at the end of the day and had a tantrum there in the middle of Disneyland.
"She can be as bad as she wants but she knows that we're never going to give up on her." they said.
In fact, the family love to take holidays together and have several more trips planned. "Holidays are very important to us, Travis said. "Just seeing our niece's face light up – seeing new and different things. These are opportunities that she's never had and we want to take her as many places as possible and to learn about other cultures."
They also go on many trips to their niece's home town so she can keep in touch with her sisters. "We're very much family orientated –we like to keep family together as much as possible, especially if they're sisters or brothers. We don't want them to lose their bond," Chris said.
When asked about if they experienced any differences as a same sex couple when it comes to caring for their niece, they said they were a bit nervous at first. "We were quite concerned about it – there is a bit of a stigma, still," Chris said. "But Life Without Barriers pretty much made all our worries go away. In our training classes, there were quite a few other same sex couples as well. And we have support from both our families."
In terms of the future, Chris and Travis intend to keep supporting their niece to become whoever she wants to be. "It changes," Travis and Chris laugh. "On some days, she wants to be a pop star! On other days, after some work experience in a café, she can see herself doing that in future."
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