The Block

The Block’s Deb and Andy open up on their family: “Becoming foster parents changed us”

Deb and Andy welcomed two foster children eight years ago

By Helen Vnuk
Eight years ago, when The Block's Deb and Andy had two young children, they made a decision that would change their lives: to take in two foster kids.
Andy had met Leilanie and Gregg, who were 14 and 13 at the time, while he was working in out-of-home care. At first, the siblings came for short stays at the family's home on NSW's mid-north coast, then moved in full-time.
"It was suddenly a lot busier and we dived headfirst into those fun teenage years with no warming up to it!" Deb, 46, recalls to TV WEEK with a laugh.
"We had to get our heads around all the things teenagers go through – the moods, social media…
"It was just a new world, as we only had a primary school-age [child] and toddler at that point, which is very different."
Andy and Deb say becoming foster parents changed them as people.
Leilanie, and Gregg, who are now 22 and 21 respectively, quickly became close to Deb and Andy's biological children, Luca and Tyler.
"Luca and Tyler have had two extra people to love," Deb says. "The little ones idolised the two big kids and they did so much together – games outside in the yard, dressing up and filming short movies. There was a lot of laughter."
But as much fun as it's been for Luca, now 14, and Tyler, nine, Deb admits the "getting to know you" process with foster kids can be challenging.
"It wasn't always a smooth path, but we always knew we loved one another," she says. "Leilanie and Gregg are just very much a part of our family in every way."
From left to right: Andy, Tyler, Deb, Leilanie, Luca, Gregg and Deb's sister Susan.
Deb, the co-owner of a homewares/fashion store, says becoming a foster parent has changed her.
"I've learned to be supportive and not judgemental," she explains.
She says fostering is a "unique situation" because it also involves case workers and natural family members.
"First and foremost, it's the kids," she adds. "They always come first."
Another contestant on The Block, El'ise, has also considered fostering. She and husband Matt are already parents to three kids: Baxter, eight, Charlize, six, and five-year-old Maverick.
And while the Perth mum isn't planning on giving birth again – "Shop is shut," she tells TV WEEK with a laugh – she would like another child.
"I've always wanted four," El'ise, 33, says. "I always wanted to foster or adopt. That was a big thing for me if we stopped. Our daughter even jumped on it."
Matt and El'ise are proud parents to three children.
Deb says she'd give her co-star El'ise the same advice that she'd give to anyone thinking about fostering.
"Give the kids lots of love, understanding and a safe, secure place to be themselves," she says.
The Block airs Monday to Wednesday, 7.30pm, and Sunday, 7pm, Nine Network.

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