Donna Marie and Andrew desperately wanted to start their own family but health issues prevented them from having children.
The couple endured some tiring years pursuing overseas adoption, before realising that many children in their own South Australian community were in desperate need of love and care.
After talking to friends and debunking myths around foster care, they applied and registered as foster carers, and the rest is history. Their household has since blossomed into their now beautiful family of four.
“We desperately wanted to have a family and we had been on a Chinese adoption waiting list for ages,” Donna Marie said.
“A friend pointed out an AnglicareSA Foster Care newspaper ad – we went to an information session and it just snowballed from there.”
The couple are the first to admit they went into the process nine years ago simply “wanting a family”. It completely changed their world.
“Our priorities suddenly flipped to being all about the children,” she said.
“Our first was so vulnerable and just seeing her in the cot, we knew we were faced with a huge responsibility to love her, keep her safe and give her the best start in life.”
Donna Marie and Andrew’s eldest foster child, now aged nine, came to live with them at four months old. Despite living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, her young age meant the couple could provide her with a great start to life.
“She really opened our eyes – sometimes we live in our own bubble without realising there are children in care that need love and support,” Andrew said.
“We decided to come off the adoption register in China. We thought why are we trying to adopt from another country when there’s more children in our local community we could be helping?”
Coping with Challenges Through Love
The children came to live with Donna Marie and Andrew at four months and 16 months of age and the challenges for each have been completely different.
“As foster carers you’re constantly asking yourself is it trauma or natural personality? Our girls are still young and we’re still getting support on these things,” Andrew said.
“We can only do our best to give the solid foundation of love and support they deserve, and make sure they can look after themselves independently in the future.”
The couple have made a conscious effort to ensure they are there for the children at all times.
“One girl’s trauma was from her time within the womb which makes it easier to parent, whereas the other was waking up to different carers every day,” Andrew said.
“Routine and bonding are vital for development in the early years – so we make a conscious effort to ensure we’re always there for them, whether it’s bedtime or school drop-off and pick-up.”
‘We’re Just Like Any Other Aussie Family’
Like any other parents, the couple are kept busy with their “very active” girls.
As a family they’ve been on trips interstate and overseas; the girls have even been bridesmaids at family weddings.
“They go to dance classes, yoga, swimming, roller skating – they do everything that children should be doing to have a happy memory-filled childhood,” Donna Marie said.
While the couple considers themselves just “your ordinary Aussie family”, they constantly remind the girls about the importance of self-identity and individuality.
“We’ve said to the girls that no family is perfect and family comes in all shapes and sizes,” Andrew said.
“We don’t all have to be peas in pods.”
Being a Foster Carer
The couple said they’ve “been blessed” with support workers from AnglicareSA and the Department of Child Protection (DCP) who have supported their decisions.
“All the shows AnglicareSA and DCP put on at Easter, Christmas … it’s amazing and the kids absolutely love it,” Andrew said.
“The support we receive is so important so we can give our children what they deserve, because it’s not their fault they’re in this predicament.”
The couple said if they had been younger or had a bigger house, they would have taken on more foster children.
They encourage those considering becoming foster carers to “go for it”, but be prepared to be adaptable, flexible and committed to the challenges.
If you are considering becoming a foster carer like Donna Marie and Andrew, we would love to hear from you.
For more information on becoming a foster carer call (08) 8131 3456.