How the Church Can Support Foster Carers- Part 3

 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.

Animation of church in background with trees flowing to the front.  The words read How the church can support foster carers.  A number three is in top left corner.  The words The Encouragers Life is in the bottom right corner.

The first week of this series we talked about gift giving triggers and then last week we looked at police checks.  In todays post I am discussing actions and reactions.

I think the hardest thing for people who don't foster is that the children aren't atypical children.  Yes they deserve the same things.

Love.
Safety.
A home.
Food.
Support.

But they are wired differently.  

This isn't their fault and isn't their responsibility. 

It is the adults in their lives that have the duty to nurture and create an environment for positive experiences.  Therefore you can not blame a child for having coping mechanisms which are difficult, for those on the outside, to understand.  

What you can control is your reaction to them.

Staring

It is normal to be drawn to events and behaviours that require attention or intervention.  And that is the carers responsibility.  It is important to remember that to avoid making a situation worse that the event or upset is best to be managed by the carer in order to maintain consistency in the child's care and to avoid the child being further upset.

However natural it is to want to stare this is not helpful.  It can make a tense situation even more stressful for the child and for the carer.  

When events like these happen it is usual that the child is unable to return to a calm state and having people make a point of noticing the behaviour can escalate the situation.  

The best thing you can do is to accept this as normal behaviour.  You can offer your assistance to the carer and if he or she needs you then they will give you direction.  If they say, 'no thank you,' then its best to leave them alone to work it out.

Sharing

I love to talk about my child.  I think he is just great and so it's easy to say the things that are going well with him.  For those that have children at home that are dealing with trauma or special needs it can alienate those that are trying to survive the parenthood or 'fosterhood' they find themselves devoted to.  

This can cause the carers to avoid functions or certain members of the congregation, not because they are annoyed but because they are struggling.  Sensitivity and noticing when a carer is withdrawing can be a sign that maybe they need to talk about less intense things or to simply have conversations that are meaningless which can be a nice break from the stress of home life.

Another form of sharing that can be damaging is sharing your opinion.  

I remember having a young child who was placed with us but all the specialists said he needed to be the youngest or sole child in the family to really thrive in a placement.  

In our home these needs weren't met and it was a struggle for him.  Due to that, he was moving on to another placement.  

Some members of the congregation we belonged to at the time, were very vocal at the disgust they felt towards our decision.  

It devastated me.  

Its not easy to acknowledge that you weren't able to help a little one.  The child went on to find a placement were he was the only child and I have heard nothing but glowing reports ever since.  He showed me the proof that the right placement makes a difference in a foster child's life and he wouldn't have found that if we had soldiered on with him.  

I sit up and take notice when someone is sharing their experience, but I become disillusioned when a person is sharing their opinion with no knowledge of what I am going through as a carer.  

Unless you foster it is unlikely you know the full weight foster carers bear.  It is likely you will never be able to comprehend  the sleepless nights, fears and worries that a carer has everyday unless you have walked in the same shoes.  Be sensitive.

Sheilding

Fostering is unpredictable.  I have found times were I have made plans and because a child has had a trigger, I have to take off my shoes and cancel at the last minute.  

This happened a lot during my fostering experience and the fallout was understandable but with awareness it can be easily understood and the carer supported better.

This normal occurance lead to me not being invited to things because, 'sure, she always cancels.' Friendship groups move on to people who are more available and so the carer runs the risk of becoming more isolated within her church community.  This can easily disconnect them from the church.

Jobs and opportunities are maybe given to others who are, 'more reliable,' or, 'less distracted' which can frustrate a carer who likes to be active in the church.

All of these things are understandable and can often come from a place or an intention of trying to make the persons life easier but it's a 'Catch 22.'  Its hard to win.  You are taking away the pressure of the carer having to say no but you are also limiting their involvement.  Its tough when all you are trying to be is thoughtful but it doesn't come across that way when you are in it unfortunately.

My advice would be to offer a buddy system.  If you have someone who likes to be active within the church body, and is a carer, then you partner them with someone who can work along side them and take over if anything comes up.  This not only creates a safety net for your events or duties but also provides a close relationship for the carer.

The Take Away

Being supportive for a foster carer is being a safe listener.  

Be someone who smiles when you see them, or texts to make sure they are having a good week.  

Be a friend.  

Drop round a chocolate bar.

Be ok if they take 3 days to answer a text message.

Be there with no requirements or obligations for the relationship.

And lastly, care rather than share unless you have a story to back it up.

By doing all this, you will enhance a carers life and capabilities within their vocation that is fostering.

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 theencouragerslife@gmail.com address.  Be sure to check out our next article here on ‘The Encouragers Life.’

 

Article written by J. Bingham

Copyright 2021





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