Your church can care too
Churches are a huge support network for foster parents, suggests Mary Dickins of Fostering Hope.
Over the last couple of years, Tasmanian Baptists have partnered with Fostering Hope to encourage churches to care for foster children. It is no secret Fostering Hope believes the local church is ideally placed to wrap around foster, kinship, and other informal carer families in support.
Foster carers open their homes to children who have been removed from their families of birth, and enter a new world. It is a world of childhood trauma, broken attachments, liaising with the Department, and working with birth families. All while trying to do the most important thing, offering security, belonging, and love to the children in their home!
Caring for foster carers
What Christian foster carers need are both other people on the journey who ‘get it’, and their church family.
The other people who get it are other foster and kinship carers. This is the role of Fostering Hope’s community of Christian foster, kinship, and grandparent carers.
Church community is also needed to support the carers, the new children in the home, and biological children in foster care families.
Stories from carers
Churches make a HUGE difference for carers. Below are some quotes from our foster carers. Sometimes, church support can be the factor which enables a family to step into fostering in the first place:
“There are many ways our church has shown they are with us and for us as we foster. We received so much encouragement and prayer as we started the process. One church member looked after our birth children every week so we could attend the training.
It really makes a big difference to know people are standing with us.
“We asked our small group to be our ‘official’ support network. They have provided meals, babysitting, sourcing a cot – as well as emotional support for us. It really makes a big difference to know people are standing with us, who understand what we are doing and why!”
Having people respond when things are exceptionally challenging, can make impossible things possible:
“Our two little girls entered our home at 18 months and three years old. Although we’ll never know the full extent of all they experienced in early life, one thing we knew for sure was that food caused them extreme anxiety. It’s likely they hadn’t always been given food regularly, so when mealtimes approached or at shared meal events, like church morning teas, they saw food and ate.
“We had older biological children in our home, so managing the four children after church was extremely challenging. Our church stepped in to help. Each of our foster daughters had someone with them during morning tea. The aim was not to discipline them, but help get a plate of food and sit down. This reduced anxiety for me after church so much. It meant I could enjoy a cuppa and fellowship, and my biological children could hang out with their friends.
This was simple and practical, but showed acceptance of our children
“This was simple and practical, but showed acceptance of our children, not judgement, and a willingness to see what we needed. I don’t know if I’d be going to church if this hadn’t happened.“
It is amazing to find a church who are willing to learn about trauma. To learn why children come into care, and goes the extra step to ensure structures and processes work for carers’ children too. Fostering Hope has trauma-awareness training to meet this need for churches.
“Sadly, we had to leave our last church. It broke our heart to do it, but we had to put our foster child first. The church they just didn’t understand our concerns when they started using Facebook to broadcast services live.
“We explained the risks of him being on social media. But their solution was that we should just keep him to the side – meaning he would never be able to engage in services with the other children.
They learnt about trauma, understood the complexities of being a carer
“Our new church now is completely different. They learnt about trauma, understood the complexities of being a carer. Through this learning, they can offer a more child safe program not just for our son, but all children.“
Caring for Foster Carers
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