Emma's story

Emma shares about how her church is helping her foster children feel accepted, validated and loved.

Over the last few years, my husband and I have cared for many children. We’ve had emergency placements, short term placements and offered respite.

I want my foster children to get what all kids need: I want them to feel accepted, validated and loved. But when it comes to children in care, church can be a challenging place. It’s not through lack of care and compassion - people love to help, but they don’t always know how to.

The children’s and youth leaders at our church were trained by Home for Good in 2016. Since then, they have been able to take some steps to make groups more inclusive for children with experience of care. They are much more mindful of how a child’s behaviour might be masking their attachment issues, anxiety, or their inability to access what’s happening.

Sammy and his sister came to us as an emergency placement last year. They had been living and sleeping in a playpen in front of the TV. When they came with us to church on Sunday, they were overwhelmed by the freedom of the hall - and they kept running out of it! People at church were great - some quietly wandered over to the doorways and helped to redirect the children when they tried to run outside.

The children had also experienced abuse and were very sensitive to any sort of contact. Leaders at church were understanding of these needs and were very careful with the children. This meant that Sammy and his sister were able to relax and be themselves in church.

The training has permeated the culture of our church, and people are generally much more aware of the issues facing looked after and adopted children and how to support them. For example, in a church, babies are often passed around for friends to have a cuddle, but the little ones I care for need consistency. Given the trauma and separation they have experienced they are hypervigilant and hyper-sensitive, and the attachment issues they face mean that the best thing for them is to stay with me. After the service, people would often offer to take the baby while I got a coffee. Now, they go and get me a coffee so I can stay with the baby.

When people find more sensitive or different ways of showing the children I care for that they are welcome, it blesses me. It shows me they’re invested; that they get it.

Some of the children I care for are tiny; they’re pre-verbal and pre-memories, but I really believe that we must celebrate every child – every life. When a new placement arrives, members of my church family give the child something to celebrate their arrival. They now know where to find a ‘new baby’ card that doesn’t talk about giving birth. They knit cardigans - investing time, energy, labour and love - into something that can be useful now and kept later in their memory box. I particularly love it when people involve their children in welcoming the little ones. One nine-year-old washes a toy from her collection each time and gives it to the new arrival.

The little six-month-old I’m currently caring for can’t appreciate these things now, but they will go with him. When he’s a teenager, these things will speak into his life of the value he had. They will show him that when he was a baby in foster care, he was loved and celebrated.

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