Six months ago Kriss and Donna’s life was turned upside down when they became foster carers for a baby girl.
“And, boy, didn’t that change our lives!” Kriss said.
“Everything completely changed,” Donna said. “It’s not about us anymore; it’s about the kids.”
Despite the sleep deprivation that comes hand-in-hand with newborns, the couple has recently welcomed another child into their family, and they couldn’t be happier.
“Now they’ve each got each other, and they’re developing a strong bond; they’re going to be very close,” Donna said.
Children bring Christmas spirit
The couple and their foster children are busily preparing for their first Christmas together as a family. For Kriss, it’s a chance to renew her Christmas spirit, as she hasn’t enjoyed the holiday season since her grandfather passed away when she was a child.
“Pop made my Christmas, so it hasn’t been the same. I was always Poppy’s girl, and there’s been something missing since he’s gone,” she said. “Now we have two children who are so excited for Santa; the fun has come back.”
The family are well prepared for Christmas and are getting into the spirit of the season. Letters have been written to Santa, and now it is a waiting game until he replies.
“We’re looking forward to it! It’s all about the children now. Our Christmas decorations are up and we have advent calendars,” Donna said. “Even though the baby won’t know what’s going on we’re going to sit her on the floor to open her presents and we have lots of Christmas clothes for her, saying ‘My First Christmas’.”
They will be spending Christmas Day at Kriss’s mother’s house with a typical backyard BBQ complete with jumping castle and waterslide.
“It’s going to be more festive and more fun than I’m used to,” Kriss said. “To be able to see their eyes when they open their presents will be very special. It’s going to be more exciting just to see these two children’s eyes knowing it’s Christmas.”
Mother’s experience provides motivation
For Kriss, her mother’s experience of being a foster child has influenced her decision to become a carer herself.
“Growing up, her adopted mother was just my grandma,” Kriss said. “It wasn’t until I was older that mum told me all about her history and it always fascinated me.”
Kriss’s mother was a ward of the state after Kriss’s biological grandmother passed away and biological grandfather disappeared from the picture.
“She was picked up by police and sent to a number of homes, as they called them then,” Kriss said. “Finally, a nice family adopted her. They brought her up as a part of their family and gave her a good education.
“Fostering means we can provide these children with a loving home, just like my mum received. My mum is very proud; she loves watching me be a foster parent.”
Donna and Kriss take their role as foster carers seriously, and hope to provide guidance to the children in their care while their parents work towards improving their own wellbeing to better support their children in the future.
“I just can’t wait to leave work now just to get home to these children. The day can’t end quick enough, having them there to greet me when I get home is excellent,” Kriss said. “If I have a bad day, the second I look at them it’s out the door. Just seeing them smile makes a big difference.”
The couple is supportive of, and facilitate contact with, the children’s parents when possible, and have advocated for travelling close to the parents to make it easier for contact to occur.
“We’re providing a lovely home, security, love, and support; but also we provide boundaries: the difference between right and wrong,” Donna said.
Sharing advice with others
Kriss and Donna said foster caring was perfect for older or same-sex couples who had the space and time in their lives to support children while their parents strive to improve their wellbeing.
“Becoming a foster carer means they can bring another child into their family and love them just as much as they love their own,” Kriss said.
To begin with, Kriss and Donna felt they were “chucked in the deep end” so to speak, and encourage those considering fostering to undertake as much training as possible before taking in their first foster child.
“My advice would be to get as much information about the child as you possibly can before they come into your care,” Donna said.
According to Kriss, if it hadn’t been for the support of Challenge’s Sydney-based Intake and Assessment Officer the couple may well have given up in the early days.
“The Intake and Assessment Officer has been a great support and has come out to the house to discuss things with us,” Kriss said. “It makes it more personal to have someone who understands our situation and is naturally supportive and kind.
“Challenge help out big time. They are there for you and offer so much training and events you can attend. They’re there to help you out, that’s what we love about them.”
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