Children Need Community
Tracey Avery attends City Baptist Launceston, and is a long-term foster carer.
Tell us about where you live and what your family looks like at the moment?
I live in Launceston with my husband Stephen. Between us, we have five children aged between 16 and 28 years. In our home at present, we have my three children and my daughter’s fiancé, and we are preparing for our first grandbaby. Stephen’s two adult children live independently.
My children are not biological, they have all come through a government-run foster care agency. The oldest has lived with me since he was two years old, has tried living independently three times, and for various reasons that has not worked out for him. The middle girl is 18, has lived with me for 16 years, and her fiancé also lives with us. They are expecting a baby in August.
The youngest girl is 16, and has lived with me since she was eleven months old. I became legal guardian to the youngest when she was three, and the middle when she was nine years of age. Having guardianship made parenting easier in regard to decision making.
When and why did you begin fostering?
I have been fostering for 26 years. I started foster caring for two reasons: the desire to become a parent; and wanting to make a difference in the lives of children who were unable to live within their own biological family. Stephen is new on this journey with me. God knew exactly what we all needed when He brought Stephen into our world.
What are some of the challenges you face as a foster parent?
It can be lonely if you don’t reach out, it takes courage. Fostering is rewarding and has daily challenges. For me having three children, all from different families under one roof, felt like I was like parenting three different families. Since the beginning I have facilitated contact with their families, and although challenging at times, I believe it has benefited the children in making their own decisions in regard to relationships within their families.
I would love to see the church rise up and support carers and the children they are caring for, even to somehow connect with their families.
When my girls were young and we would go to church, and many Sundays I really had to push through to be there. I would watch people within the congregation connect with other children, just not mine. Perhaps it was because the congregation didn’t want to connect with them, but I do wonder if they just didn’t have the skills.
As I journaled about this I wondered: if the church cannot love and connect with the children that come into the church through foster care, then how will the church ever love the people out in the communities and on the streets?
Fostering changes your life forever, and it comes at a cost to all. As a foster carer I have chosen that path. My eyes are wide open to the hurt and brokenness the children and their families experience. Whilst I have a choice to be a foster carer, the children don’t have a choice to come into foster care.
How does being a Christian foster carer make a difference to what you do?
I love the peace that God places within. On days where I have been challenged beyond comprehension, I still have this sense of His peace. Knowing that God loves my children more than I can ever imagine, I know He is my strength and He will carry me through those days.
What is the best piece of advice you have received about fostering?
I would advise others to connect and build a community around you, and the children, in your care. Most importantly, be kind to yourself, schedule time out.
Do you ever feel sad, or guilty, or uncomfortable about the idea of raising other people’s children?
I have had a range of emotions over the years. My heart breaks for my children, that they were not able to be raised within their own biological families. I am thankful for the relationships I have with my children and their families. It is my privilege to be a light and carry a banner for God into their lives.
Do you have support from others to assist you in your foster care journey?
Yes, over the years I have gathered a team of friends who are supportive of myself and my children. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have done without their support.
What are some practical things people can do to assist a foster carer?
Befriend them. Come alongside them, and do life with them. We all need community, love and acceptance. The children need a community around them. They need that reassurance that there are people available to step in, to help out through times when circumstances are out of our control.
How can we pray for you and your family?
Pray that our children will all have a relationship with Jesus, and find the love and acceptance that they crave within the world. At the end of the day nothing matters, only our relationship with God.
I am thankful for my journey as a foster carer. I would not be who I am today if I had not had the privilege of raising and loving other people’s children. Even in the hard days I am thankful.