Young Family Homelessness
Vulnerable Children & Young People
Ross and Rob
Lachlan was three years old when he landed on our doorstep. It was a Monday evening. A car pulled up and I wandered outside and these two guys, one very large and one very tall, got out. They lifted this little thing from the back seat. It was Lachlan.
He didn’t know what was going on and neither did we really. It was hard: we didn’t know what to expect. At that stage we thought he would only be with us for two weeks: everyone imagined he’d be going home after that. He was our experiment; our stick-your-toe-in-the-water and see how it feels experience. We had been signed up for long term caring but at the last minute we got scared and said that we needed to try it first to make sure.
With me, everything has to be in the right place and in the right order: no surprise that I was panicking. When he fell asleep, Ross and I went out onto the back deck and poured ourselves a wine. And we did that every night for about a week or so: talking, asking questions, trying to work out if we were doing it right or wrong. Looking back, I’m not sure that any amount of questions I might have dreamt up beforehand would have delivered what I needed to know. You just try your damndest to do it right. I believe now it’s an organic process, you can’t really learn it. You have to trust your instincts. And every child will be different.
Ross and I had been together for a long time (more than fifteen years) when we started talking seriously about parenting and it took probably about two years to arrive at the decision. We both like children and we’ve always had friends’ kids around, so the discussion wasn’t about that. It was more talking about how parenting would change our lifestyle. In reality though things were already changing for us, we just didn’t realise it. It started with the usual child substitutes: the two cats closely followed by the two dogs (who we worried about just like they were kids anyway) and we’d also accumulated these houses. One day we finally admitted that we couldn’t just jump in the car and go away like we used to anyway: things had changed. It had crept up on us.
Originally, we thought of adoption and we went through all the possibilities, both here and internationally. As a gay couple there aren’t many options. For a while I toyed with the possibility of jumping on a plane back to the UK and becoming a resident again to do the process there.
But in the end we decided on fostering and to some extent, once we started the training and the assessment process, we came to understand that there could be lots more benefits for us going that way, rather than adopting. We realised we could always have the people there to help when things didn’t go according to plan or when we felt we just weren’t coping or understanding the particular issue.
Lachlan was beautiful from the beginning. Originally, he was going to be staying with us very short term but that extended and extended. Ross went past the point of no return after a short time. I think I protected myself, or thought I protected myself, until the court order was signed for permanent care. It took me close to a year before I could admit that there was no way I could let him go.
Lachlan sees his Mum at least once a month. He can talk with her whenever he wants and his Mum can talk with him. She knows where he lives and where his school is and what he gets up to. Lachlan is a very happy boy now and he causes me grief like any normal six-year-old! (‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’: that sort of stuff.) He likes drawing, watching cartoons, kicking a football around, riding his scooter, riding his bike, swimming in the ocean. He’s not that keen on swimming pools except that he loves jumping into them!
I guess like any parents we look ahead to what we might have to deal with as he grows older. And of course we think about the same sex thing between us and how he is going to feel. And whether he will run into any prejudices from friends and friends’ parents because our family isn’t what’s considered the standard model and there could be issues around that. He may himself develop prejudices towards it. Who knows? What we do know is that we have a loving family and a wonderful supportive environment for our son to grow up in.
People outside often say, ‘Oh it’s really nice, it’s lovely that you do this for a child.’ But I always say, ‘Look at him. You think we don’t get anything out of it? Just look at him…!’
Want to know more about caring for vulnerable children? UnitingCare Burnside is the only church-based agency that welcomes all foster carers, whether they are gay, straight, single, married or de-facto.