I’m a bit slow. It had been about two years, maybe three or four times a year; phrases like, “Shall we become foster carers?” “We could do fostering.” Only this time the thought stuck and the penny dropped: “You’re serious, aren’t you? I thought you were joking!”
And so began the exploration. I needed time. I walked. My usual walk along the beach, trying to make sense of the idea, trying to think through the implications, and trying to find where God was in all of this.
I have conversations with God. He is kind, invariably giving me a sense of his heart and purposes for me, but this was different. I remember clearly the day that I spoke with him and plunged myself into something so much deeper than the fostering. “But it’s not important enough for me!” As soon the words and the exclamation mark came out of my mouth I knew I was in trouble. “Really? Let me show you.”
And so I started a journey of discovering why fostering was God’s agenda for us as a couple and a family. From May through to August, He pursued me – newspaper articles, documentaries, films, music, books, conversations, all designed to open my eyes to why fostering was so important to God and, therefore to me. We went on holiday in August, and every day God woke me at 05.00 and showed me over and over why it made perfect sense for us to become foster carers. There were many tears as I grappled with the challenge. Now, don’t get too excited – I’m not a great sleeper and a regular “cryer” so neither were unusual, but this was different. God was on my case.
For many years previously, my passion had been the Father Heart of God. My own journey had led me into a revelation and an understanding of the power of knowing God as my Papa. And so I got to the point of asking myself the question… or was Holy Spirit whispering? “What greater way can you find to share the Father Heart of God than being a foster carer?” And the reality is I couldn’t. However hard I tried.
And so in December 2013 we were approved to be short-term foster-carers for our local authority. And in January 2014, the first two little ones arrived and we were crashing into a world of pain and darkness that I had never touched before. It is now August 2019. As I write at silly ‘o’ clock, our final placement, seven weeks old, is asleep in her pram. She is placement number 11, baby number 9. Three have returned home to birth parents, and we still see one occasionally; the first two are in long-term care; five have been adopted, with that being the plan for number 11. We still see the five who have been adopted. We are treated as family, and the unfolding of their stories continues to amaze us and fill us with awe at the grace and kindness of our God.
Being a foster carer is, without doubt, the hardest job I have ever done. But then it is so much more than a job. And it is, without doubt, the most rewarding thing I have ever done. To see little lives plucked from the darkness and the pain of their challenging starts, and see God heal them up as we try to love them with all that we have, has been such a privilege and a joy. To see adoptive parents take these little ones from our care and make themselves a family leaves me speechless and in tears most of the time.
And then I have to agree: being a foster-carer has been one of the most important things I have ever done. And it has changed me for ever.