Fostercare and community

What does foster care have to do with the theme of this website?
A lot actually!

Choosing to be a foster carer has been one of the biggest decisions we have made as a family that has warranted criticism and judgement. In fact, I can count on one hand the positive comments we have received. This has been one decision that has gone completely against the flow and against modern concepts of parenting and family and yet, we feel convicted that this is right for us. It’s not for everyone – but it IS for us.

Many people, with the best intentions, have tried to discourage us by raising questions that we of course have asked ourselves many times. I have found the shocked “Ohhh! Good for you” rather patronising as if I was weak-willed by giving in to the compassion I felt for hurting kids whilst others were smart enough to just say no. Foster care has been one of the more socially unacceptable decisions we have made and have had to trust in our convictions.

So, why is the concept of foster care in our current culture so bizarre?

Inviting outsiders into our homes has become something we don’t really ‘do’ anymore.  However, it was only a few generations ago in Australia (and in many countries around the world) that it was a very different story. Back then, homes were seen as part of a community.  Families used to welcome the “pop-in” and if Aunt Mildred arrived unannounced from interstate she would just sleep on the couch. It was also acceptable for cousin Cecil to come and stay for a few months while he worked in the city or Frank’s cousin Bertie to pop in for the night when he was in town. Our homes were open.  It was just the right thing to do.

Today, it is very rare for us to open our homes. They have become our castles and we guard them as such. We surround them with great big walls to keep out the enemy which is anyone who threatens to destroy the privacy and comfort of our personal space. Guests are perceived as threatening and invasive and refusing them is justified by telling ourselves we were ‘just protecting the kids’ or we ‘don’t have the room anyway’ or it ‘doesn’t feel right to share our space.’ I don’t have a problem with common sense and obviously protecting our kids is paramount but I do have a problem with making selfish excuses and disguising it as common sense.

Somewhere along the lines we have lost the concept of true community and our lives are now focused purely on ourselves, our needs and those in our circle of close friends and family. We rarely give any time to those outside the circle unless it is convenient for us. We don’t like to be inconvenienced.

But, how can we help others or experience true community if we are never prepared to be inconvenienced? How can we help people if we are never prepared to be uncomfortable?

Many of the kids in the foster care system are broken beyond belief. Their short lives tell stories of neglect, abuse and rejection. Having a broken child in your home is inconvenient. It is confronting and it is often uncomfortable. But I would rather be inconvenienced and uncomfortable doing something I believe to be right than doing nothing for the sake of myself.

This experience has definitely tested my resolve. I have questioned myself many times but always come back to the conviction that this is what we are meant to do. As with many choices we make for our families, we must trust in our convictions even when they go against the flow.

If foster care is something that even slightly stirs you then I encourage you to look into it further. Most states have regular information nights where you can check it out to see if it’s for you.

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