How the Church Can Support Foster Carers
DISCLAIMER AND INFORMATION
All of the things I will be discussing in this series are from my own personal experiences and perspectives. I share examples and stories and so some details have been changed to provide necessary protection.
A good place to start is probably giving you a little bit of a background. My husband and I were foster carers for 9 years and we were Christians before taking the classes and going through panel to be passed as carers. We attended a non-denomination church and likely the closet way to describe our faith is Pentecostal. Due to us relocating we left that church and attended a charismatic non-denominational and Presbyterian during our service.
I love church goers and I am not here to hurt but to generate awareness of how actions that are totally innocent can cause ripples that they may never know about. Don’t worry I am not here to bash any faiths or denominations and each church has different policies etc.
My church attending experience as a foster carer has been mixed over the years. I have had blinding successes and heart-warming moments but I have also had, ‘what were you thinking!?’ moments too.
I remember, at the beginning of our time as foster carers, being asked, “How can the church help Foster Carers?” and really, at that moment, I had no clue. I was unseasoned, I didn’t have the experiences I have now and so I couldn’t answer their question. However, now I can.
This week I would like to talk about gift giving.
I am very aware and understanding that if you want to give to a foster child it is something amazing but I ask you to please be careful!
I once remember being told of a child enjoying their Sunday School experience and at the end a man offered him some sweets. The child broke down there and then. The adult didn’t know this, but that little boy’s abuse began with a man offering him a packet of sweets.
Please, please, please, make sure any gift giving is done through the carer. The carer has established trust with the little one. You creating or accepting this posture of gifting can help the carer(s), the child and the home dynamic in a variety of ways.
The two I have identified are…
1. You are cementing the protection that the carer is able to provide to the child. That can only enable the bond between carer and child to grow. This enables safety to be at the centre for the little ones stay and also shows the respect you are giving to the child.
When we sit in church all we see is the child. The foster carer knows the true picture. They know the abuse. They know the trauma. They know the fears. They know somewhat how the child is processing the environment and how they feel. The carer isn’t going to debrief you of their reasons for being in the fostering system before they are brought in to church.
Foster children are like icebergs. You only ever see a tenth with your eyesight, the rest is under the surface.
You allowing the foster carer to be the person that all giving, chat and interaction goes through allows them to support the child fully until they become more secure within their environment.
2. If the child sees that the foster carer trusts the gift giver then the child will likely become more comfortable, given time, and a lot of upset can be avoided for those children that are triggered by giving.
It allows the child to see that people can give without wanting something in return. It teaches them that not everyone will hurt them. Respecting this can enable a social building block to be redeveloped which will enable the child to read peoples actions and determine their safety. Something which is valuable in their futures. Rebuilding this block can allow them to review their trauma and work towards living in a safe environment allowing them to develop appropriate connections with others.
Let’s talk about a different giving trigger.
This one usually affects the older children and teenagers where it can be because of challenging behaviours that the foster carer(s) is trying to manage at home. Although in saying that I could probably ask enough people and find someone having this issue with a toddler. Every child is different.
I remember an instance where we had a young girl who didn’t have a great track record of looking after her belongings, and she went through straighteners like they were disposable. The straighteners were also being misused at times and we did have moments were fire safety came in to question.
Her latest pair broke and so a new pair was to be purchased for her through a reward scheme. This really worked for her in the past and it was achieving great results at regulating some of the behaviours that created issues for her.
Someone very kindly gave her a pair of top of the range, expensive straighteners and it became tough to manage their use because they were a gift. Not only that, the reward system was a bust from that moment on. It also created some contention because if she wanted anything else she would say that she was going to go directly to the gift giver and get it. She had developed another source of material items that took pity on her that she could use when she wanted.
Seemingly amazing, generous and appreciated thoughtfulness can leave a carer picking up the pieces or scrambling to retain authority. It’s mad but it is true.
Please, ALWAYS GO THROUGH THE CARERS.
By doing that you are providing the children and foster carers with a trauma aware and safe environment.
Thank you for reading this week. Next week we are looking at the importance of Police Checks. You would not believe what I have to share on this topic.
If you need support do reach out to someone or an organisation that can help. If you would like to share your story or contact me please feel free to private message me on our Facebook page or on Instagram. You can also email me using firstname.lastname@example.org address. Be sure to check out our next article here on ‘The Encouragers Life.’
Article written by J. Bingham