A year in: reflections from a foster carer

Tom and Christina share some reflections after their first year as foster carers.

A few weeks ago, our Church leader asked us what fostering was really like. Searching for a shared experience we could all draw on we told him, “It’s like being at Newday, all the time.” For the uninitiated, Newday is a week-long Christian youth festival that happens each summer. As a youth leader, you are constantly trying to keep all the plates spinning, often on very little sleep. But it’s also a week of watching young people laugh and have fun, explore and discover more of who they are, develop important relationships and dig into big questions. “Wow…” he replied, knowing what a week at this festival is like. “Are you okay? What can we do to support you guys?”

Our family has been fostering for just over a year now, here in the South East corner of Central London. The five of us (me, Christina and our three birth children) responded to Home for Good’s call for emergency foster carers at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, we have welcomed a teenager for three months, we’ve had a few weeks with a two-year-old and twin five-year-old boys and, most recently, we’ve had two very little lads that stayed with us for over eight months.

We don’t have any foster children in our home right now, and it’s given us a moment to reflect a little bit. Christina and I have found ourselves drawn to Jesus through the story of the Widow of Nain, which you can find in Luke 7.

It’s the first day of the week, and Jesus has had a full-on weekend of teaching and healing the crowds. If Jesus was anything like me, I imagine there must have some temptation to just lay low for a few more hours before facing the imminent demands of the fresh week. But Jesus doesn’t hide, he gets up and steps into the crowd. As Jesus walks into Nain, the Bible tells us that he sees a woman whose son has died, and that he feels compassion for her (verse 13).

Although our situation and that which Jesus was faced with in Nain are very different, we’ve found some guidance and comfort in these verses. When ‘the call’ comes from social services, often at dinner time on a Friday, our custom has been to first (in an age appropriate and confidential way) discuss with our birth children the possibility of a child or young person joining our family for a little while. So far, on every occasion, the children have risen to the moment, quickly listing the reasons for us to say ‘yes’ and sharing their ideas as to how we can welcome this individual into our home. It is Christina and I who have to take a moment to recognise the pain and brokenness that means a child or teenager has had to leave what they know. Flooded with God’s overwhelming love for both us and for this precious child, we’re met with emotion each time. When we’ve answered that phone call with a ‘yes’, we’ve encountered tears of grief and fear of unfamiliarity, and we’ve felt that compassion. For us, in many ways, following Jesus has mirrored his encounter at Nain; it’s looked like taking a breath, stepping in and experiencing emotion.

We used to live by faith, but only for the big things in the future; things far enough away that we didn’t really have to worry about them! Now, we realise that we need God for our daily bread. Many a day have we woken not knowing how the day will pan out, but crawled into bed amazed by what God has done. We were given an all-day delivery window for an item of furniture we really needed, yet it arrived in the only hour we were actually at home. A friend just happened to be passing right when the pushchair, laden with children and shopping bags, broke. We needed to find a nursery with staff that understood trauma, and a neighbour pointed us in the direction of experienced former foster carers. We were in need of a holiday but couldn’t find a place that could accommodate our whole family and our various needs, and a couple contacted us to offer us their house on the coast for a few days. We’re noticing and realising that little God-instances happen all the time.

What has been our joy is watching each child step deeper into who God has created them to be, to celebrate some truly remarkable moments, and to move them on to the stability and security of a long-term family. We’ve celebrated our 15-year-old in her achievements in school. We watched as a young person rode a bike for the first time, and heard her screams of delight. We’ve seen a one-year-old take his first steps, and his two-year-old brother gain confidence.

Our testimony, a year into fostering, is this: we have stepped into stories containing pain, and we have witnessed God bring life and joy to His precious and beloved children. It’s been a year of spinning plates, of little sleep, of big questions and of lots of laughs. A year in, we can honestly say that there is nothing we would rather be doing with our lives.

Author:
Tom and Christina


Date published:
March 2022


Tags:
Stories


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