At 21 years-old Hayden became a foster carer with his partner at the time, taking care of two sisters, five and nine years old. Later, and unexpectedly, their one-year-old baby sister came to live with Hayden.
As a gay couple, Hayden and his partner decided fostering was the best way to become parents. They weren’t interested in surrogacy and they wanted to care for kids who already needed help.
From the outset Hayden made it clear that he was most interested in long term placements because of their desire to create a family.
Hayden’s dad and step mother had been foster carers, so he had an insider’s view of what it would be like.
“I really looked up to them for being foster carers,” Hayden said.
It’s clear that Hayden loves being a foster parent to his three kids. When Hayden and his partner separated he did not hesitate to continue fostering as a single parent.
“It’s been very rewarding, I’ve found a real pleasure in it, that’s hard to describe in words. It’s such a warming experience. Also seeing the progress they’ve made, that their grades have gone up, and they’re making friends,” Hayden said.
How does a 21-year-old come to be a foster carer? For Hayden it was his maturity and the strong desire to do something to help change the lives of children. He felt like he was ready for the next stage of life.
“I felt like I’d done it all by 21. I had bought a house with my partner and we’d renovated it. And I’d got all the partying out of my system,’ he said.
“I don’t have any regrets. I have more self-worth doing something like this.”
Being a single parent had its challenges.
“You couldn’t just pop down to the shops alone, one of the kids was always attached to me,” Hayden said.
There’s also a simplicity in single-parenting because routines are more consistent and easier to enforce. Hayden is self-employed and has a flexible schedule which helps to keep on top of housework and after school activities.
Hayden’s family were very surprised at the idea of him becoming a foster carer at 21, but they were also very supportive and play the role of typical grandparents. The children’s biological grandparents were supportive too and Hayden is pleased they have a connection to that side of their family.
It’s people in the community who are the most surprised at Hayden’s parenting role, often assuming he’s their older brother.
“You can see people doing the mental calculation, so it always comes up, but they admire what I’m doing,” Hayden said.
The advice Hayden has for younger carers is to be confident.
“People feel like they can’t do it or won’t get looked at seriously,” he says.
Hayden did a lot of training so felt very well equipped and has his case worker to rely on who he can call at any time.
Some of the advantages of being a younger foster carer are having more energy and more time.
“Because you have time on your side you can always have more kids later, so you’re not torn between choosing, you can do both,” Hayden said.
Being open and flexible was important for Hayden and is what he suggests for prospective foster carers.
“I never thought I would have children placed with me permanently, I was happy to go with the flow and make a difference to the lives of any of the children that came into my care,” he said.
We’re celebrating our amazing young carers as part of Foster Care Week 2018. Find out more here.
By Belinda Daw