Small business owners Mark Vanderweyde and his partner, Chris, had long held the mistaken belief that being gay meant they could never be foster carers. Thankfully, after investigating further, including speaking to My Forever Family NSW, they learnt that their dream of growing their family could actually be realised.
“Our goal was always foster to adopt or guardianship as we didn’t want to think about the heartbreak of kids leaving. From the beginning, we were upfront about wanting to provide a forever home that is nurturing, safe and stable so that the kids could thrive,” Mark said.
“However, we were advised that when kids come into care, you don’t know what their needs are, including whether their time in care will be short or long-term, and whether reunification is on the cards.”
“So, after the assessment and training, the phone call finally came. And I will never forget it.
“It was a Friday night and we were still at work. I got a call from our agency, asking if we could take two little babies—sisters—in an hour’s time. We had trained for this, of course, but reality hit us hard after the sleeping baby girls were handed over to us, and we were literally left holding the babies.
“The girls’ eyes soon opened, and when they did, they were clearly traumatised.
“My heart sank, but I will forever be grateful to my mum for being there on that first night to help smooth the transition. Everything just happened so quickly.”
The girls’ emergency stay turned into many months, and Mark and Chris have loved every minute.
“I come from a large family, so we are keen for the girls to have the love and all the benefits that come from being part of a large family. Our job is to ensure they have everything they need and deserve,” Mark said.
“Right from the start, we included the girls’ family, which is also large. We facilitate all family contact, including the girls’ siblings living with other carers. It’s quite the jigsaw, but we share photos, host visits with their older brothers and sisters, and when the girls’ grandparents visit from Sydney, they stay with us for the weekend. We try to make everything as natural as possible for the girls. It’s all about them, not us.”
Mark is keen for those looking to become carer to know the assessment process and training can be overwhelming.
“There’s a lot of policies and procedures, but there’s a reason for that, and it really changes your perception of how things work.”
Mark and Chris were initially only keen for one child, but when their agency rang them in late 2020 with a request to take the two sisters, they could not refuse.
“So because of that, my advice to new carers is not to say no to anything. There’s such a need for people to take sibling groups. We couldn’t imagine life without either of our girls,” Mark said.