Journeying with others: Emily and James’ story

For James and Emily, the idea of fostering was daunting, but with the offer of some extra support from Home for Good, it felt doable.

We’ve been supporters of Home for Good since 2018, and have been exploring the possibility of adoption for several years, attending information events here and there with friends. We had considered fostering, but had always felt a little bit daunted by the prospect.

That changed when the pandemic struck. We live in a London borough with almost 500 children in care, and with a huge need for more foster carers. COVID-19 and the first lockdown only made matters worse, with many existing foster carers having to isolate or shield.

Home for Good reached out, inviting individuals and families in our borough to take part in a special scheme trialled by our local council. The scheme sought to speed up the approval process to meet the urgent need for more carers. Approval would be for a more limited timeframe. Home for Good were encouraging Christians in our area to put themselves forward for the scheme and welcome a child or young person into their home, helping to meet the urgent and growing need.

The idea of fostering didn’t feel any less daunting, but with both of us working from home for the foreseeable future, and the offer of some extra support from Home for Good, it felt doable. After praying, we decided to go for it.

We were introduced to three other households who were also applying under the emergency scheme. One couple had three children, another couple, like us, didn’t have children, and the third family had older adopted children. Our Home for Good staff member connected us in a video call, and we set up a WhatsApp group with each household as well as a brilliant local Home for Good Champion who has helped and encouraged us on our journey.

All of our training with the council was, of course, online. Although we hadn’t met our group in person, it was reassuring to see their familiar faces pop up on the screen during those online sessions which felt so new to us. I can’t express how helpful and encouraging it was to have the support of the group as we journeyed the process together; we were able to share our questions and concerns, and then as the relationships developed, we began to pray for one another too.

Having our first emergency placement was a huge moment – I can so clearly remember receiving the phone call when serving up dinner on a Friday night. It was so affirming to be left thinking, “Do you know what? We really can do this.” We weren’t the most experienced, nor experts in child psychology, and of course there were challenges and questions as well as joys and fun moments. But we could certainly keep this little girl safe and help her feel loved at a scary time.

We cared for a diverse variety of children and young people during that time; from babies to teenagers, individual children and sibling groups, many different ethnicities, backgrounds and religions, and our group has gained some really special stories and memories from the experience. One family had a child arrive on Christmas Eve after her mother had been rushed to hospital. She didn’t stay overnight, in fact for just six hours. Concerned that she wouldn’t have any presents to open the next morning, they gave her a few Christmas gifts to take away, and amazingly, were able to speak some of her first language. Another couple temporarily welcomed a child who was deaf, so they learnt some sign language. They brought him to church, and others in their church family learnt some sign language as well, so they could welcome him. Another family threw the most incredible birthday party for the children they were caring for – we got to go along too, and it was beautiful to see their church family and friends there celebrating the children.

After six months, each family was given the opportunity by the council to ‘upgrade’ to become foster carers beyond this emergency scheme. The other three families have, amazingly, all gone on to become mainstream foster carers for the council. My husband and I are now respite carers. We have provided respite for two of the families in our Home for Good group, which has been an incredibly special thing. For one family, we started by just meeting them all in the park for an hour, before doing weekend cover and some evenings. In the other case we were straight in the deep-end with weekend cover for two toddlers, underpinned with the knowledge that we were picking up the baton as trusted team-mates. It was our privilege that the children grew to trust us and enjoy time with us.

Each of the other families have had placements become medium or long term. We are still exploring the possibility of adoption. As the eight of us have taken our first steps on the journey, it's been so special to walk together; supporting one another, learning from one another and praying into every joy and every detail.

Author:
James and Emily


Date published:
March 2022


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