One shot. We only get one shot in childhood – the crucial formative years for our adulthood. But sadly some childhoods are lived in environments that are not as God intended. Not every child experiences two loving parents. Not all feel nurtured and safe. For some children, there is no storybook upbringing.
That’s where the role of foster carers becomes critical. Family organizations are looking at trends happening right now in the pandemic. Looking ahead, it’s likely that the numbers of children entering foster care will double. At risk families are struggling with the challenges of income, homelessness, mental health, addictions, and domestic violence. Tragically, it’s children who are on the receiving end of this.
In this 20Twenty conversation, Mary Dickins joined us to share her thoughts on the current foster system. Mary leads an organisation called ‘Fostering Hope’, that seeks to advocate for Christians to open up their homes to children in care. She is on the hunt for more families who might become involved as foster parents.
For Mary and her husband Allan, fostering is part of their family’s heritage. Allan’s mum grew up in foster care, and was one of a number of children removed from their homes. For a couple of months as a teenager she was placed with a Christian family. From there she was later adopted, but that family continued to pick her up and take her to church every Sunday. She found a new identity in Christ and met her husband, all because of that placement in a Christian home. Her story is different to her parents and some of her siblings, and Allan and Mary’s family is a beneficiary of that legacy. Fostering is a powerful thing that people can do in the life of a child.
Mary and Allan have two biological sons and three foster sons, so they have a crazy and very loud house of five boys. “What we do with ‘Fostering Hope’ is support people along the journey of becoming a carer”, says Mary. “We connect them with other Christian carers who can support them in the first year, and it makes them all better parents.
We only get one shot at childhood. When you understand that and appreciate it, you actually become a better parent through the process.”
Mary says that she hopes more people will respond and become foster carers. It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you are at. There are people at a stage where their kids are leaving home and they can take on more children. There’s also a desperate need for respite carers. Mary is really calling on people to prayerfully consider what role they could play.
“We need to acknowledge that Christians have been involved in this space for decades and are some of the best carers out there,” continues Mary. “We want the Church in Australia to think about those carers as living out their faith as local missionaries in their communities.
We want to talk about this as local mission. Like James 1:27 says, we are to care for the orphans and vulnerable in our community. That’s true religion.”
It’s important that we don’t just respond to fostering with our heartstrings. People need to take the time to consider what is the best next step for them and their situation. ‘Fostering Hope’ will walk that journey with them, and find others who are in their community and can offer support. They also provide resources on trauma, attachment and therapeutic parenting. They equip and enable families to succeed, and partner them with Christian care.
“Our goal is to raise awareness, talk about this need, and celebrate carers in their churches and communities,” says Mary. “But we also want celebrate the children who have such incredible resilience.”
“This is a great time for churches to do something to bless and care for foster families.”
To find out more about becoming a foster carer, visit www.fosteringhope.community and to listen to the rest of Mary’s chat with Neil, click below.