How the Church Can Support Foster Carers- Part 2
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.
Thank you all for reading last week’s instalment of the series. In part one we looked at ‘gift giving triggers.’ If you missed it you can read it here.
This week we are looking at the importance of Police Checks.
Everyone does it. Don't they?
I spent my twenties involved in leading youth work programs and I learned the policy and importance of having staff police checked. Today in Northern Ireland we call them Access NI’s. Due to my background, and how normal it was to have anyone that works with young people checked, I always assumed that every body, every organisation and every church upheld this safeguarding measure.
Long story short… I was wrong.
I have not called too many churches my home, but I have visited others across different denominations. I had one church that covered this aspect with such precision and thoughtfulness that I can’t fault them.
Everyone in the congregation had the opportunity to join in with training to become child protection aware. Never did I see someone, that wasn’t processed through the Access NI, be in a position where they were alone or having communication with a minor.
Each person that served in children’s ministry underwent the check but also attended training sessions looking at how to spot abuse, report it and protect themselves from possible allegations.
The thing is, predators hide everywhere. They could be the smiling neighbour, the unsuspecting partner or your child’s best friend’s family member. That’s not to scare you but it is to make you aware of how easy it can be to have confidence that your child is with someone harmless were trust is the measuring stick of whether a person is safe or not.
Having people that values a child’s heart and protection with great importance enables them to become more aware of signs, but it also flushes out the safe from the not so safe adults.
Safe adults will protect themselves. Not so safe will blur lines and create spaces for inappropriate connections. Having a solid and rigorous policy within the church enables the congregation to be responsible in order to avoid issues.
Not every allegation in the world is truthful. It’s horrible to think that there are people out there that would ruin others’ lives by saying they did something monstrous to a child which is a complete fabrication, but it happens.
It can be for attention.
It can be that they are sharing abuse and when asked who did it to them, they panic and give another’s name instead of their abusers.
It can be that the foster child is under the notion that if they say these things they will either be able to return home or move on to regain control of their lives.
It can also be from a idea of being able to sue to gain financial security.
With so many false allegations out there, all I can think about is how hard it must be for those who ARE abused to come forward.
But the truth is false accusers exist.
And because of this, the investigation that the accused undergoes is extreme.
I have watched it.
I have been in circles with people who have went through it and it has devastated their lives, affecting them long after the police throw the case out.
PLEASE listen to your leaders when they set boundaries.
You may be thankful for them one day.
Leaders PLEASE set boundaries.
They are more valuable that you know.
I had been attending a small church in a new area that I had moved to. It was all going well and I was even serving on the kids ministry team. I hadn’t had the police check paperwork given to me but I figured it was coming. They were a small church so I thought maybe they are saving for it? The other leaders I served with never left me alone with the kids and had been long standing members, so I assumed they are obviously covering me because they are checked.
I had been away for two weeks and came back to a new Sunday School teacher who was working the room on her own. After the service I asked who the new teacher was thinking she has been hiding on me somewhere and I haven’t said hi or introduced myself.
She was brand new.
That’s when I got scared. I continued and joked about how, ‘she’s only through the door and on the mission field so she must be a long standing friend?’ Nope. No one even knew her second name or where she lived, etc.
SHE WAS A COMPLETE STRANGER!
And, she was allowed to be around my children unsupervised because no other teacher that was on the rota showed up. I made sure I wasn’t picking the situation up wrong, but I ended up leaving that church quite abruptly.
For every child whether they are fostered or not, it is the churches responsibility to be taking measures to create the safest environment possible.
I understand, especially for smaller churches, that getting a check for each member that serves can be finically difficult but it is part and parcel of serving the community. I know of a church that has their core crew checked and then they buddy them up with someone who will be processed whenever they become long standing members. This helps them avoid wasting money on police checks for people that may move on.
They go to great lengths to make people aware of their safeguarding measures and take steps to make sure that a child is never alone with an adult. (We will be talking more about them next week)
A Word For Foster Carers
Foster carers please know that we have a responsibility too. Don’t be like me and assume that the church you’re attending knows the ins and outs and has everything checked.
Start those conversations and help educate them about your needs.
I am sorry, unless they have fostered they haven’t a clue what your life is like. They may nod their head and offer you prayer but unless they have been in the fostering trenches they have no idea of the difficulties and the complexity that exists to keep the young people and the other congregation members safe around each other.
Promoting a safe and healthy environment for foster carers and the little ones they care for can be multifaceted and it is often that foster carers don’t even make themselves known as carers. They aren’t ringing a bell while shouting ‘This one isn’t mine! I foster this child!’ You are likely to not find out that the kids are fostered until weeks, maybe even months down the line because to a carer, they are their kids, they just have to share them.
Therefore having a rigorous policy now, before you come in to contact with a fostering family can help make the transition of settling in to a church family a relaxing and powerful experience.
Having a group of people that understand the challenges and are willing to let the foster carer take the lead in disciple, etc. can strengthen a carer.
And a supported carer means a supported child.
Good stuff always filters down from the head and the foster parents are the beginning of the church experience. The success lies with them.
A Word For The Church
Churches, feel free to ask questions; read; talk to carers and grow in serving the people in your community that foster and care for others. I am sure you know that they are valuable members of society and will open you up to so many beneficial experiences and wisdom.
As church goers, let’s help support them in their roles.
Thank you for reading this week. Next week we are looking at the importance of actions and reactions.
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