Rob and Dale are one of those couples whose love is tangible to anyone they meet. Growing up in a small country town, they had always known each other. But 15 years ago, they took their friendship to the next level and have been going from strength to strength ever since.
“We don’t like spending time apart,” said Dale. “From the beginning of our relationship, if Rob had to go away for the night, we would be calling each other saying ‘I miss you’.”
“Everyone makes fun of us because we’re one of those annoying couples who are obsessed with each other.”
However, as the saying goes, the course of true love never runs smooth. Rob and Dale first encountered difficulties as a couple during their journey to parenthood.
Years after they were married, though they were keen to start their own family, it just wasn’t happening for them. Genetic testing showed mutations on both sides and that a natural pregnancy would likely not be possible.
“When we found out about our genetic mutations, we thought maybe it was a sign we should give love and a home to children who really need it,” explained Dale.
“There are so many kids out there who need love and stability.”
In the Hunter region, there are many children and young people living in motels and crisis accommodation, as they don’t have a safe home. Having a few friends who are carers, Rob and Dale already had a sense of what being a foster care entailed and knew this was an opportunity to make a real difference in a child's life.
A call to CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning set the couple’s journey to becoming foster carers in motion. Following training sessions and the authorisation process, it wasn’t long before they were asked to provide emergency care to an 18-month-old boy named Brodie*. While Rob and Dale had only expressed interest in being permanent carers, something about Brodie told them it was fate.
“When we saw the picture of this little boy looking out the window, almost like he was waiting for us to come to pick him up, we knew right away. It just felt right.”
On a sunny day in July 2018, Rob and Dale picked up the child, who quickly became an irreplaceable third member of their family.
“Meeting Brodie for the first time was quite daunting,” said Rob. “He was very closed-off and withdrawn. But we knew he was meant for us.”
“We were meant for this purpose. This was why we haven't been able to have our own children. We were meant for Brodie.”
Despite being just a toddler at the time, Brodie also vividly remembers the moment he became a part of Rob and Dale's family.
“I asked Brodie what he remembers from that day,” said Dale. “He said just one word back to me: ‘love’.”
The family now host an annual celebration on the July date, which they consider the best day of their lives and a reminder of how truly blessed they are. However, the couple also take time to reflect on the grief experienced by Brodie’s birth family in having him removed.
The shy Brodie they first met three years ago is a far cry from the cheeky boy he has grown into while under their care. Now four-and-half years old, he brightens a room and is known for making everyone laugh and smile.
“He’s four going on 14; he’s very clever,” gushes Dale. “Brodie has the best sense of humour I’ve ever seen in a child. He's one of a kind.”
While Rob and Dale’s love for Brodie is palpable, they also recognise his birth parents share this love. Dale messages Brodie’s mother and father regularly, and they FaceTime once a week to keep them in his life as much as possible.
“We established from day dot to include Brodie’s mother and father, and I think they respect us a lot more for that. It’s important to empathise with them and show you’re not there to take their spot but to help their child. We’re part of the same team.”
While Rob and Dale are unclear about how long Brodie will be in their care, they haven’t let this ambiguity stop them from loving Brodie as if he was their own. Asked if they could love him anymore if he was their biological son, the response was an emphatic ‘no’.
“My advice for anyone considering fostering is to treat the children as if they were your own kids, and you won't have a problem.”