“My son’s and my relationship started when he moved in next door. He was 3 and in short term foster care. We bonded. He’s now 21 and living the dream … he’s been the head deckhand on a super yacht based in the Mediterranean, sailing off to the Caribbean for the European winter. He worries that he is not taking life seriously enough. All the adults around him say ‘go with the flow, mate.’
“I’m in my early 60s and have a job I love, close friends, a great family and I live in the Greater Geelong community that is geographically beautiful, socially aware and unbelievably connected. I feel like I have influence and can make a difference. My life has love and meaning.
“I bonded with Gerard when I was in my early 40’s, single and happy with my life. I had always assumed I would have children. Gerard was 3 about to turn 4 and his life was marked by the usual child protection story of instability. He’d already had 30 short term foster care placements. His parents weren’t and aren’t bad people – things just conspired against them.
“We are three houses on one block, and among many things, we love to host a good party. Our Solstice winter soup parties are big and fun. At the soup party the year Gerard was 4 and climbing all over me, many of my conversations included the question; ‘why don’t you become his parent?’ My initial response was ‘I have a full time, full-on job and a life that I enjoy’, but it did start me thinking…
“Once my decision was made, I entered a whole new world that tested my commitment. I always encourage people to become foster carers because it is a fabulous thing. I also say “be aware, the system is not easy, you are not viewed on an equal footing and if you truly want that young person to be a part of your life and to have all the opportunities a secure, loving childhood offers you will need to make sacrifices that are unreasonable”.
“Gerard has always had an unassailable confidence. An intelligent, gregarious child, Gerard loved school more as a social exercise than an academic event, but he was always engaged. He tested many of his teachers. This was not due to underlying trauma; rather he was an energetic child with some “baggage”. In secondary school he always said he was adopted, a very sensible move as I know his school life would have been different had the child protection label been attached.
“His work ethic has been impressive. Through his own organisation as a young teenager he started working in a local restaurant in a far-too-big uniform. His growing up was very much like many children’s; loving; engaged; sporty; lots of friends; surviving annoying family and mother’s expectations; and working his life out. But for Gerard it was also underpinned by sorting out his place in life as a child who had experienced great loss. As a bright resilient loving child, he did this in the usual boy way … without a lot of communication. Now as a young adult he is exploring and wanting to understand. What I offered was family for both of us, a place of security and love to advance as a spirited child and teenager into a confident, caring, athletic, principled, inquiring and loving young man.”
Story: Jane Wager. Photo: supplied