'He was always afraid that he was going to be removed from us.'
Mum-of-eight describes the heartbreak of waiting for adoption, and why we need to make these things happen much faster for the sake of the children.
Brendan was just two-and-a-half years old when Julie Hall received the call that there was a young boy in need of a home.
Julie had made the decision to look into providing permanent care to children in need, along with her husband and their four children almost 20 years ago. At the time, the family completed the necessary courses and ticked all the boxes, and now decades later, they can't ever see themselves stopping.
"We went into permanent care/adoption with Barnardos Find a Family straight away," Julie told Kidspot. "I said to my husband if I'm going to be doing this I'm not giving them back."
Having given it a great deal of thought, Julie says her existing four children were a guiding force in their decision to take on permanent care with the ultimate goal of adoption instead of fostering children.
"It's not fair to my other children," she said, of having to possibly take on a child and then have them all say goodbye again.
"We found a little boy but there's a hitch."
It didn't take long for the Halls to get the call they had been waiting for.
"We came home and said we found a little boy but there's a hitch," Julie said.
The little boy came with a baby brother, Shannon, aged 14 months.
Julie and the Hall family accepted both boys into their home together, and while Julie admits it wasn't easy at times, she wouldn't change a thing.
"Fostering is hard work but it's rewarding," she said. "It's not for the faint-hearted. If you go into fostering thinking you can change the kid, you're going in for the wrong reasons."
The Hall family have a saying: "We don't change; We tame."
"The kids are great as they are, you just need to tame them a little bit. Because they've not had a family life before, and once they get to know the family rules and they blend in, they're fine," Julie said.
The brothers never knew each other.
What makes this story even more unique is that the brothers didn't know each other until the Hall family took them both in.
"Brendan and Shannon were never placed together, they were placed separately, they never knew each other," Julie said.
Julie recalled Brendan being her "hardest case," most likely because he had been through eight different foster homes in the first two-and-a-half years of his life."
"It took nine months for him to let me cuddle him because he had never been cuddled or touched or anything," Julie said.
"When someone would come to the door, he would scoot and fly under his bed because he was thinking someone would come and take him ... He was always afraid that he was going to be removed from us, so it was really really important for my boys when we adopted them."
"They were really worried about being taken away," Julie recalled, of the anxious wait to adopt the boys.
"When the kids come through, their parents aren't the best and there's all sorts of abuse. So the kids are fearful the parents are going to turn up and take them away or go to school and take them," she said.
"He was so scared that they would come in and take him during the night because he wasn't adopted."
In fact, Brendan was so anxious that they had a roll-down shutter installed on his bedroom window so he could sleep at night without fearing he would be taken in his sleep.
The Halls had always planned to adopt the boys, but the process took a lot longer than it should have, with the final adoption papers coming through when Brendan was eight years old and Shannon was six.
It's always been important for Julie that siblings are kept together where possible, so when she received another call about a third sibling on the way, there wasn't a second thought.
"Codie came to us at 12 weeks," Julie said. His adoption only took twelve months, but given he came to the Hall family as a newborn, things weren't as complicated as they were with the older boys.
How adoption changed everything.
Julie firmly believes that there were two very important things that helped her family over the years:
The first was the consistency of their caseworker, who remained with the Halls for over 10 years.
"He's been the constant one because all the family comes and goes, but the caseworker is always there."
"Barnardos are really really great," Julie said.
"Their training programs are great. If you don't know something they put you in a course where you learn about it, so it's not so difficult.
"And the support you get from the caseworkers - we had the same caseworker for 10 years with our boys ... He came out if there was a problem he would ring me on the weekend after hours if I had a problem."
The second was the adoption, which made Brendan feel a safety and stability he hadn't had before.
"The fact that they were adopted and they felt stable, I think that's the success of our boys," Julie said.
Both boys had an open adoption, which meant they still had the option of contact with their biological parents. They have since gone on to be amazing young men. Brendan is now a chef, and Shannon is finishing off a course in construction plumbing.
New reforms to help kids.
The state government have recently put forward a reform that says all foster children should be adopted within two years of being placed into the system. For kids like Brendan and Shannon, this would have saved a lot of anxious waiting.
The reforms were set to be debated in NSW parliament earlier today, and Barnardos would love to see all other states follow in our footsteps to ensure permanency for all Children in Australia currently in Foster Care (over 50,000 children).
Barnardos Australia CEO Deirdre Cheers says, "Children cannot wait for adult time frames for decisions to be made about their future. We welcome these reforms that will introduce child-centred time frames for children."
After all these children have been through, the added trauma and fear over being removed again is the last thing these kids need. We certainly should be minimising the time frames where possible, so kids like Brendan and his brothers can feel safe and secure sooner rather than later.
(This article was first published on kidspot.com.au, written by Claire Haiek.)