Reflections from a foster carer: The magic wand

For Foster Care Fortnight 2017, we asked foster carers for their thoughts.

As part of Foster Care Fortnight 2017, we have asked some of our foster carer friends to share about their experiences. This blog is one foster carer’s response to the most common responses she gets about fostering.

“It’s like we would need a wand to magic up foster carers,” the social worker joked, sat back into her chair and held her mug of tea. My dead eyes and pan face couldn’t even muster a polite smile.

She’s right. With 170 foster carers urgently needed across Northern Ireland (44 alone in the Northern Trust where I live), and thousands more across the UK, a magic wand really would come in handy.

But... what if the Church did the job of the magic wand? What if, instead of mysteriously making something appear, the Church made a commitment – to be present and be the ones to offer refuge to vulnerable children.

For those unsure of what it actually looks like to foster, and for those wrestling with the idea of fostering, naturally there will be questions. Wondering and searching will unearth deeper thoughts that need to be considered, and it’s wise to do so.

Here are the three most common responses I get when I talk to people about fostering.

1) I would get too attached

Um, wouldn’t that make you the perfect candidate?

Most children in care have suffered trauma, potentially neglect or abuse, and many will struggle with attachment because of it. In reality they need all the love you can give.They need to be able to have the opportunity to rebuild their idea of love and realise this is a necessity they are worthy of. The stable and secure walls of a foster home can begin to do this.

Don’t let the fear of loving a child that may leave deter you, let the fear of a child never knowing love drive you...” – Jason Johnston

I once cared for a nine-year-old who had already moved four times in her short life. Removed from her parents, whilst her brother and sisters remained. Her experience of trauma, worthlessness and heavy sadness was tangible.

It can be hard enough to figure out the world at the age of nine! But she taught me so much. She possessed resilience and impeccable survival skills. She had sense of humour, loved pasta and felt most at ease when kicking a ball in the park. There are thousands more stories like hers. Each varying in complexity, but each one centring on an individual in need of someone safe to attach to.

I will not pretend it is an easy thing to be that someone. Their childhood trauma will likely be wrapped up in a tangle that is most often unleashed through extremely challenging behaviour. Whilst it may be tough, deep down there is an inner child struggling to make up for love lost.

As foster carers, there is a tremendous privilege in building on their strengths and ironing out the creases of the challenges.

It is painful to only be there for a chapter of the story. It’s inconvenient. Our life may not remain in a neat little box that stays ‘inside the lines.’ And yes, you probably will get too attached – that’s part of it.

But to keep it simple, James 1.27 says Pure and genuine worship in the sight of God the Father means caring for the orphans and widows in their distress’.
(I’m not a fan of the ‘orphan’ word, let’s say ‘children who need a stable home and a loving family’.)

We are called to do this Church. This is worship. This is pouring the perfume. This is loving until it hurts.

2) It’s not the right time

I love the T.V show ‘This is Us’. It is full of warmth despite carrying an undertone of struggle and sadness. It champions the spirit of hospitality.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but at the heart of it is a decision to care for a child in the midst of personal heartache. Some might say it’s not great timing, and whilst this is of course being shown through the lens of Hollywood, it’s not hard to be fiercely gripped by the reality of a child needing a home.

Ultimately, there’s never going to be a perfect time. Life just isn’t like that. There will always be something.

Of course, for some it genuinely isn’t the right time, and we must respect that life’s timing is personal and plausible. Fostering is a huge commitment and should not be taken lightly.

But for others, it is a stage curtain waiting to be pulled.

If you are waiting for the ‘perfect’ time when your job isn’t stressful, or you’re less busy, or you have a bigger garden with perfectly mown grass, then the curtain will remain down. Perhaps it’s ready to be drawn now?

If the stories you hear and the very word ‘fostering’ leaves a thousand tiny pin pricks on your heart with a lingering ache, and in order to cope you seek to soothe it with excuses, perhaps it’s time to lean in to that which causes your heart to hurt.

Naturally there will be questions, doubts and fears. But you can’t grow without those things. And as a foster carer, you need to learn to become familiar with them.

3) I don’t think I could

In the end, whether or not you choose to foster is your decision, and it certainly isn’t the right choice for everyone.

When I started this, I was single with no children and not remotely maternal at all – at all, at all. But I cared. I have found that very normal people are threaded through the Bible again and again and again. Our all-powerful God uses normal people. We are all He has to see His justice and freedom outworked on Earth.

This is the beauty of it. We don’t have to have it figured out or have all the tools in the parenting toolkit (thank goodness – I certainly don’t). All He asks is for a willingness to say Yes.

Ultimately, not everyone can or should care have a child in their home, but there is still a part for you. This could be making dinners, planning trips, offering prayer support or simply being a friend to both carer and child. All much-needed roles. You can always do something.

‘There is a serious need for carers. Ones willing to say YES because they simply can’t stand any more stories of abuse. Ones who set aside their fear because they realise these children need it. I am sickened for those children that might never find this freedom. Those that go from home to home to home. When will we rise up and say ‘enough is enough, I will stand in the gap, I will be your place of refuge’?’ Courtnay Philips

Beyond our fears and insecurities, children wait. Would you rise up and say ‘enough is enough’?

Author:
A foster carer


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