21 Jun We need more foster carer’s like you – Justin’s story
As a single, gay male in his thirties, Justin’s options when it came to fatherhood were limited, and foster caring was an obvious introduction to the challenging but rewarding aspects of caring for children.
“Being a carer has actually opened my eyes more to what’s involved with having kids, and I think it’s better prepared me to possibly in the future raise my own and do what’s right by them,” he said.
Justin, who lives in Central Queensland, hit the ground running providing emergency care for two boys which quickly became a long-term placement, sparking his desire to help as many children as he could.
“I started off caring for the boys longer-term, knowing we were aiming for reunification,” he said.
“Once they were settled and were at a point where we could have other kids in the house, I decided to start taking on respite care as well.”
Taking on new children, whether that just be for a weekend, is a worthwhile experience.
“It’s sometimes about putting the kids’ faith back into adults, because they may have only known adults as people who aren’t trustworthy or safe,” Justin said.
“It’s just a matter of sitting down and doing something with them, whether it’s arts and crafts or playing with toys, just getting down on their level and letting them know you’re a safe person.”
One of Justin’s fears before commencing his foster care journey was being able to ensure his own financial stability while supporting the children in his care, an apprehension which was quickly addressed when learning about the financial support available for carers.
“There is support available to allow you to support the children in your care and afford to put the kids in day-care while you go to work, for example,” he said.
He is also a champion of asking for assistance, whether that be seeking out training to deal with difficult behavioural challenges or leaning on his support officer for help when he needs to work late and is unable to pick the kids up from school.
“In the beginning, it was daunting because, as a single person with a full-time job, I didn’t have that support there,” he said.
“But as soon as I spoke up, everybody just came together to help. The school, the department and my support agency all working together to get the best outcome for the boys, that’s our aim.
“Just asking your support officer for help can open up so many doors. They can find you training for so many different situations, or you can do online training.”
Minister for Children Leanne Linard said Queensland needed more people to become carers.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen an increase in the need for foster carers and I’m really pleased to say that Queenslanders are already answering this call,” she said.
“We have seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of families stepping up to care for the first time, with 1,645 new families registered in the 12 months to June 2020 compared to 1,373 to June 2019.
“While we are very fortunate to already have thousands of caring Queenslanders who foster, more are needed as the number of children requiring care increases.”
As an LGBTQIA+ foster carer, Justin is adamant about reassuring other members of his community that his sexuality has never been a roadblock when it comes to connecting with the kids in his care or dealing with his support network.
“Being gay doesn’t really factor into any of it,” he said.
“The whole team that works together with you is fully supportive no matter what your sexuality is or your relationships status, so long as you can provide a happy and healthy home.”
Nothing has prepared Justin for the emotional satisfaction of being able to give children in need a safe and happy space to call home.
“It’s been life-changing for me,” he said.
“There’s hard times but seeing the growth when the kids go from what they were to what they are now is so fulfilling.”
And although he and his extended family treat the boys as their own family, Justin notes the importance of helping the children get back to their biological families.
“They’re not replacement kids and you aren’t adopting them, they’re foster kids. The aim is to get them back home,” he said.
“You love them as much as you can but if they’ve got to go home, they’ve got to go home.”
Visit www.qld.gov.au/fostercare to hear what other foster carers have to say about their journey, learn more about foster care, and to submit an expression of interest.
To speak to someone about foster care, call Queensland Foster and Kinship Care on 1300 550 877.