Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Hume Moreland Leader - "Gays urged to consider being foster carers" by Isabella Shaw

GAY people can be caring parents and should be encouraged to become foster carers, a Hume agency worker says.

Donna Zander, manager of out-of-home care at Orana Family Services in Meadow Heights, says the recent furore surrounding the ABC's airing of a Playschool segment depicting two mums taking their daughter to the zoo highlighted public perceptions of parenting.

Ms Zander said Orana and other foster care agencies she knew of had several gay carers on their books.

The services all focused on the child and their needs ``regardless of the configuration of the family type''.

``We (Orana) have no hesitation whatsoever towards assessing somebody that is currently in a gay relationship or has been in a gay relationship or is intending to be or is a single gay person it is an irrelevant factor for us,'' she said.

``Obviously we would be looking at the match of the child to that relationship or to that person, just as we would around a whole range of other factors.

``They would go through the exact same selection process like anybody else to ensure that the child would be cared for in a safe and appropriate environment.

``When you think about what children actually need boundaries, love, structure, routine, consistency and a safe environment to me the sexuality of the person is irrelevant.''

Ms Zander said same-sex couples had limited options when it came to parenting.

``But foster care is one option and I believe a very good one,'' she said.

``Peter'', who did not want his real name used, is a 43-year-old single gay man living in Melbourne's north.

For the past eight years he has offered respite care to a mildly autistic boy.

Peter, who has a counselling background, is a registered carer for foster care agencies including Orana, Interchange North West, Berry St and Anglicare.

Over the eight years Peter said he would have opened his home to more than 20 children needing short-term care.

He said his sexuality had never been an issue when registering as a carer, a situation he applauded.

``I pour my heart and soul into these kids,'' he said. ``If you are willing to look after a child, and have got a clean background, it (sexuality) is nobody's business but your own.'' Foster Care Association of Victoria Centre president Janice Hughes said the centre's board had formally discussed the issue and it was ``perfectly happy'' with gay foster carers.

``To me it isn't about individuality as such it doesn't matter whether someone is grey or black or green or have got spiky hair or rings in their noses or painted fingernails or anything like that,'' she said.

For more information on becoming a carer, phone Orana on 9351 1311.

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