How adoption gave these two boys the best Christmas ever!
Brothers Aidan and Kaleb and their two new dads feel blessed family comes in all shapes and sizes, but for these two brothers from NSW their thoroughly modern family is a dream come true.
The two schoolboys from the Hunter Valley spent the past five years in foster care with four different families, before they chose Brendan and Paul Carter to be their dads and asked the big-hearted couple to adopt them - with their birth mum's complete blessing.
Imagine their excitement after the uncertainty of much of their difficult childhood to be looking forward to what will be the first beautiful family Christmas of many to come.
This year Aidan 14, and Kaleb, 11, will celebrate with their two new and very proud dads - and the more than 60 cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents, who are now part of their instant family - at the beach.
"It does change things," Aidan says.
"Maybe we'll celebrate a little differently because we're a true family now." Aidan and Kaleb's new life only came after they were adopted in March following a sustained campaign to reform adoption laws to make it faster and easier to adopt, with the reforms officially adopted in October.
'You will come back for us? - he asked that on three occasions' Our most vulnerable children will now spend no longer than two years in foster care before being found permanent placement with a guardian, or, as in the brothers' case, in an open adoption with their foster carers.
But Aidan and Kaleb's adoption is even more unusual because it came with the full blessing of their birth mother, who they still see regularly and who, in the only case on record, attended the adoption hearing to see her boys handed into the care of their new parents.
"It's just that weight off your shoulders thinking we could be moved any time of the day or night 24/7," says Aidan, who is now excelling at school and has become an elected student representative.
"He's such a source of pride to us" says adoptive dad Paul. "He now feels like he can be somebody and achieve whereas previously in foster care the uncertainty made him feel he couldn't aim for anything."
Aidan's little brother Kaleb is also flourishing in his new loving family.
"He's doing amazing things at karate and just forging ahead," Paul says.
Brendan and Paul met the boys through Barnardos Australia in 2014 and knew how important it was to give them security as Paul had been subject to forced adoption as a child and struggled as a result. On a shopping trip together just a few days after meeting it became clear just how uncertain the boys felt about their futures.
PLEASE COME BACK
"You're going to come back for us aren't you?" Brendan recalls Aidan asking. "He said that to us on three separate occasions." Those heartbreaking words made Brendan and Paul determined to fast-track the boys' placement, and just a week after their first meeting they moved into their new foster home, and two years later came their adoption joy.
"Aidan initiated the adoption," Brendan reveals. "We'd been told at the start that because they had a strong connection with their birth mother, adoption wasn't an option."
(This article first appeared in Woman's Day)