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Gay and lesbian couples may still be
denied access to adopt children as co -parents
(current laws allow singles to adopt) but the
growing number of children requiring foster care
has found many gay and lesbians stepping up to
the challenge to provide homes for children in
Currently there are dozens of di erent foster
agencies looking for carers to take on the respon-
sibility of long and short term fostering. Place-
ments in a loving, nurturing, safe environment
are the key requirements.
Zoe Sharman has been working for one such
agency, the Benevolent Society, for the past four
years. Originally working as a counselor for child
protection and domestic violence ser vices, Shar-
man says she jumped at the chance to join the Be-
nevolent Society's Fostering Young Lives scheme:
"I thought it would be a good opportunity to be a
part of an innovative new program from the very
Her role as senior case manager is varied. "No
two days are the same,"
"I might be recruiting,
assessing or training
carers, working with
children, helping with
school holiday activi-
ties, writing reports,
going to meetings, re-
sponding to referrals...
the list goes on."
Zoe is keen to quash
the popular perception
that gay and lesbian
people can't foster. At-
tending events such as
Mardi Gras Fair Day
help abolish the misconceptions: "Lots of people
that we spoke to didn't know that they could be
foster carers. I think the misconception is there
because there are other areas in which gay and
lesbian people aren't treated equally. But we can
Sharman adds, "Fostering is one way that gay
and lesbian people can be involved in parenting
children. Additionally, some of us will have had
experiences of di culties in our own families, or
of feeling di erent at some stage, and may be able
to support a foster child who is feeling similar
things. We are looking to recruit gay and lesbian
carers because we celebrate diversity and want to
recruit a diverse pool of foster carers. We know
that we have a diverse group of children coming
into care -- one of our phrases is, 'All kinds of kids
need all kinds of carers.'"
So what's the criteria to become a foster par-
"When we are recruiting foster carers, we are
not looking for perfect people. We are looking for
people who can pro-
vide love, support
and a caring, nurtur-
ing environment for
children. is can be
on a short-term or
long-term basis. Fos-
tering can involve a
weekend a month, a
few days or weeks, or
until a child turns eighteen."
Another agency helping to unite young peo-
ple with carers is Stretch-A-Family - specialising
in nding placements for teens in need. Renee
Clout has been working with the agency for the
past eighteen months and says she is continually
surprised by the resilience of her young clients.
"Working with young people has been an amazing
experience. Seeing young people's resilience, their
ability to strive and achieve despite the previous
trauma they may have experienced is a privilege.
Whilst there is o en a negative preconception
of teenagers in foster care, our experience is that
with a bit of care, support, stability and routine,
these teenagers can reach their full potential."
According to Clout, anyone interested in
providing a caring and stable long term home to
a teenager can apply to be a carer for Stretch-A-
Family as long as they meet certain criteria :
"You must have experience with teenagers, be
over 25, have a spare bedroom and live in the
Sydney metropolitan area. Being a carer doesn't
mean you cannot work. Most of our carers are in
employment. As a carer for Stretch-A-Family you
will also receive a generous tax free allowance."
Stretch-A-Family are also looking for carers to
take on short term placements as well:
"If you cannot care for a teenager on a long
term basis, Stretch-A-Family are also interested
in recruiting respite carers which may be a com-
mitment of one weekend per month in your own
home. You will still receive training and support
in this role," states Renee.
Renee says foster carers come from all walks of
life, although she admits certain life skills hold
the carer in good stead -- "qualities such as pa-
tience, tolerance, understanding and exibility
don't go astray."
For info on Stretch-A-Family's foster care program,
their residential program called Stanmore House, or
their independent living program called On Track,
visit stretchafamily.com.au or call Renee, Kerri or
Michelle at Stretch-A-Family on 02 9569 6933.
To be a foster carer with Fostering Young Lives, you need
to be over the age of 21, you can be gay or straight, in
a relationship or single, have children or not, be working
or studying, own or rent your home. Call Fostering Young
Lives on 9504 6694 (Central Sydney) or 8778 0600
(South West Sydney), or go to the website, bensoc.org.au,
and follow the links about foster care.
Family AffairFostering young lives... By Cec Busby.
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