A seed planted in prepared ground generally bursts into life. This is how it was with us – the seed of a thought planted by friends who were already fostering. How normal they made it look! One couple went from approval to receiving a sibling group of five over a weekend! I am still in awe.
When we started the process, our church family was mainly supportive. There were a few who thought we were quite mad as we have four birth children, and were concerned that they would 'miss out', but the sympathetic families who had had similar experiences kept us grounded throughout the assessment process – and still do. The assessment was hard work and thorough. At times we wondered if it was worth it, as we had to give so much of ourselves without knowing whether or not we would be approved.
Since having started to foster, it has been a challenge to juggle the needs of our birth children and those of a fostered one. We intentionally make an effort to 'regroup' as a family and take time out for us. We don't always get it right, and occasionally I have unnecessarily succumbed to the pressures that arise from having a looked after child - to the detriment of my birth children - but we keep learning! Our children are amazing, and have taken to fostering really well. They've opened their hearts as well as their possessions to others, loved unconditionally, and are learning big life lessons. I am so thankful to God for this.
I have found that, as a church, we are very good at providing emotional, spiritual and practical support. It's part of our DNA. As a Home for Good Church we are learning how to embrace vulnerable children, and adapting our ways to wrap our arms around them and the families they are in. For our church, this often looks like providing respite care, cooking meals when new placements arrive, looking out for birth children and throwing adoptive showers!
Perhaps the biggest challenge so far has been saying goodbye. We will have to do this again soon, and I know we will be dependent on each other as well as my church community, family and friends. Being a foster carer has been challenging, emotionally and physically exhausting at times, and occasionally downright lonely! But it is so, so worth it. Seeing the progress the little one makes, seeing healing start to take place, and remembering what a privilege it is to care for them in this stepping stone of their lives is so amazing. Opening our hearts and home in this way has been the best decision we've made as a family.