Short-term fostering - Foster Care Fortnight

Wendy and David share their story of being short-term foster carers.

Short-term foster care provides a placement for a child or children for a few weeks, months or, in some cases, a year or two while long-term plans are made for the child. Carers are likely to get some period of notice before a child’s arrival, but it may not be very long. Wendy and David have been short-term foster carers (also known as task-centred foster care) for 21 years, and in that time have cared for 28 children.

Our birth children were 8, 11 and 13 when we first began fostering. We asked them how they would feel about us welcoming some other children into our home for a little while and our middle son responded, “Mum, we have such a happy family. We need to share it.”

Sharing our home and caring for others is a big part of who we are, whether that’s through children’s and youth work in church, mentoring younger couples, or even just having our son’s friends over to the house. Some of those boys tell amazing stories about being in our house, and often we didn’t even really realise the impact our open door had – one told us that our house felt like his own home for most of his teenage years. So fostering made sense for us as a family.

It was in one of our early training sessions when the social worker was explaining the different types of foster care to us that we decided to be short term or task-centred carers. The role of this kind of carer is to look after children until their future is decided, and that really seemed to fit with our desire to help and care for any child who needed it. Our local authority took us through the process which for us took around 6 months – that was 21 years ago, and we have had the privilege to care for 28 children, all under the age of five, since then.

We have stories of joy and stories of hard times from each and every one of those placements, and some of them we took through some pretty significant moments in their lives. We looked after one baby who had open heart surgery whilst in our care. I remember taking her to the hospital when she was 3 months old, weighing just 10 lbs. The doctor explained the operation procedure to us, and the details just sounded unbelievable for such a tiny, tiny baby. We carried her to the door of the operating theatre, and remember feeling so protective over the life in my arms as we handed her over to the doctor.

We walked up and down the Kings Road in Chelsea for about four and a half hours, waiting for the phone to ring. We had a few coffees, and a lot of banal and inane conversation, because what on earth do you talk about when the tiny baby you care for is in surgery? We eventually got a call to say everything had gone well, so we hurried back to the hospital and there she was. We took some photographs for her life story book, and one of us stayed in the hospital with her for the next five days. She was supposed to be in for ten days, but this strong little lady made so much progress that she was ready to go home after four; the only reason she stayed one extra day was due to the snow, which was so bad in London that winter that we couldn’t leave right away! We had to drive into London to collect Her, and have never driven more slowly and carefully than we did that day!

This little girl moved on to an adoptive family, but we are still in touch. She’ll often appear at our front door with her parents and say, “Can I have a drink? I already know where they are because I used to live here!”

We’ve had the enormous privilege so far of seeing all 26 children we have cared for move on to their permanent home. That isn’t going to be everyone’s experience, and it may not continue to be ours, but so far that has been the story of our goodbyes. Those goodbyes are by far the hardest thing about fostering, and we often hear people say ‘I couldn’t do that, because I couldn’t say goodbye.” But should you not do it at all, because the end is hard? What about every other day, week, month, year you share together; every meal you share, story you read, memory your share and milestone reach? It’s worth the pain of saying goodbye.

Being in church one Sunday morning having just moved one of our babies on who we’d had for 18 months, our heart breaking and feeling we couldn't go on, we felt God offer a picture. A heart that expands to let children in, and then contracts again when they leave, but it never actually breaks. The more we reflect on this role, the more we understand - it's the perfect picture of a foster carer heart.

If you think you could offer a vulnerable child a safe and loving home through fostering, or want to find out more about how you or your church can play your part in finding a home for every child who needs one, we would love to hear from you. Click here to get in touch.

Author:
Home for Good


Date published:
May 2021


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Stories


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