Michelle Bush and Ian Brown

Any parent with twins knows the challenges of double trouble. Combine that with fragile health and the challenge to look after two little vulnerable girls may have seemed insurmountable for one Darwin family.

But not for Bees Creek couple Michelle and Ian. The pair, who have three children of their own aged between 19 and 8 years, were daunted but not put off giving two year old special needs twins a home.

Michelle and Ian signed up to be foster parents in 2012.

“We had always talked about fostering, and I had looked after a boy who was two when I was nursing and living in Derby in the Kimberley,” Michelle said.

“We went to Vietnam a few years ago and went to an orphanage and when we got back, I woke up one morning and Ian was downloading adoption papers. I said ‘why don’t we think about fostering first?’.”

After 12 to 18 months of looking after children in respite and emergency care, the couple agreed to look at a more long term situation. 

“We talked to the department about our options and what we could cope with and then we got this email about two-year-old twins with special needs,” Michelle said.

“They had been in hospital so long and they were sick, we weren’t sure of the situation but they were malnourished and their mum wasn’t coping. We had to help.”

The girls, Nola and Jade (not their real names), were born premature in Adelaide at 30 weeks and suffered from bronchiectasis, a lung disease common in premature babies. The twins needed to be fed through a tube into their stomachs and were malnourished.

The girls had been in and out of hospital and were placed into care for 12 months as their mother, who was from a remote community, had been losing the fight to feed them and keep them healthy. 

Michelle described the tube feeding, which by then was only done through the night, as daunting and exhausting. The couple persevered and their efforts have paid off with two vibrant, cheeky girls who are now thriving. 

Nola and Jade can now spend more time with their mother, grandmother and aunties out at their remote community, with Michelle and Ian providing respite care when needed.

“They are such lovely girls, they were easy to love,” Michelle said. 

Ian, who designed a special bed for the girls so they could still sleep close together at night, said he enjoyed seeing the girls improve and grow up.

“The kids have gotten a lot out of it too,” Ian said. With eldest daughter Darcy, Shakiah and Noah, all hands are on deck to help raise the twins. 

“It has been a really nice experience for our family to share, it is a family thing that we all miss them and worry about them and feed them, it has been good for everyone to chip in,” Michelle said.

“We need to try and give kids a good start – kids don’t choose their families.” 

“It has made our lives more interesting as well, not just the mundane, get up and go to work” Ian said.