My wife Leeanne and I had talked about fostering a child for a number of years. We had both worked with kids as youth leaders and through Camp Quality and then eventually paid work. It seems like the only reason we became adults was to work with children.
When Leeanne and I spoke about fostering the image of the child I saw was nothing like Sarah*. Much more robust and idealistic. The idea of fostering a child with “special needs” wasn’t considered, and for no real reason. It was just that we hadn’t considered that option.
Sarah was referred to Allowah needing a lot of care. I read through her file with tears streaming down my cheeks. Having been an emergency nurse for a number of years as I read through the report I could see what this little girl had been through and I knew Allowah could help. It wasn’t without a tear or two that I shared Sarah’s story with the team at Allowah and together we made plans to take care of her. We met with the team at Westmead Children’s Hospital arranged a smooth transition Allowah. Sarah was transferred very quickly to Allowah.
I remember the day Sarah came to stay at Allowah, she was 2 years old. If at this stage of the story you’re thinking beautiful peaceful and angelic thoughts, forget those right now. Because of the trauma that she had been through Sarah had cerebral agitation and feeding problems which cause her to scream 23 hours a day. Her head was shaved, she was fed through a tube into her stomach and she had blood pressure problems. Sarah’s needs were so great that she needed a team to care for her, she needed Allowah.
Eventually with a lot of TLC we saw Sarah smile for the first time. Rowena, our recreation co-ordinator captured that moment on camera. I still have that picture. I keep it so I can see just how much her smile has grown and it has grown a lot.
I would drop in and visit Sarah, as I do with all the children, when I do my morning rounds of the hospital. I recall one morning peering over her cot rail. Sarah would stop whatever she was doing and talk to me with her eyes. This one morning though for some reason as I leaned over her cot rail I said “Hey, I can see you!”. Sarah grinned and clearly said “Dad”. When I went home that night I talked to Leeanne about my day and told about this moment. I could really see the cheeky little girl inside and felt that the medical reports might just be wrong. Sarah was there and trying to let us all know with her clicking sounds and raspberries.
Leeanne and I began taking Sarah on day trips. We would go for picnics or to the beach, one time we even took Sarah to a Jericho Road Christmas party in the Blue Mountains. Eventually dropping Sarah back to Allowah was becoming very difficult. We took Sarah to the beach for Christmas day. We had lunch and a swim, we laughed and created some magical memories. That afternoon when we dropped Sarah back to Allowah she was especially upset. My other children stayed in car while Leeanne and I took her into her room because they couldn’t bare to hear her cry.
Sarah had managed to adopt my whole family. None of this was in our plans at all, fortunately we serve a God who has a plan and knows what we need even if we can’t see it at the time.
*name changed for privacy reasons
As a nurse working in the Westmead Children’s Hospital I have always been interested in the thought of opening our home up for another child who needed someone to support them.
Even before my nursing began Scott would often come home from work at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and say to me, I nearly brought a little bub home today or I nearly brought another one home… the need is so great.
Scott would come home from Allowah and tell me, there is this little girl at work and she is so “there”. He would tell me stories about a little girl who would raspberry and click to get attention. Eventually he introduced me to this special little girl who was already calling him Dad.
I was volunteering as a music therapist when I first met our little girl who inspires me every day. One day Scott came home and asked if I would be interested in fostering. I was honestly quite frightened at the differences it would mean to our life, in particular my perceived journey in mission work overseas. I was certain that my nursing was coming to an end at the Heart Centre for children but I could never have imagined what was in store for us.
I felt that I heard God whisper “Trust me.”
It was after this we agreed to start the journey of the training and the assessment process. We also needed to find a new rental home that would accommodate a wheelchair. This was a challenge in itself. However it all came together, and since then we have had another move into another home suitable for a wheelchair. The agency and staff at Allowah were fantastic in assisting us in the preparation of our home and equipment for our foster child. We started to take our little angel out on day trips and it became increasingly harder to return her to the hospital of a night. I can remember jumping with joy and the tears of happiness when we were told that we could bring her home.
I would truly recommend fostering a child to anyone interested in giving a great gift to a child who may not be able to repay in this lifetime, someone who possibly will return a hundred fold in smiles. I’m not saying it is all smooth sailing. It’s not, but I am saying it is the most amazing experience our family has had and I am grateful that I have been entrusted with the opportunity to be Mum again to an incredible little fighter, who continues to amaze us and her extended support team.
It is a privilege to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. To minister to the “one”, who in turn ministers to the many.
We have now started the journey of providing respite to other carers like ourselves who are fostering a child with special needs. The demand is so great, firstly to find a family who is willing to provide a home for a child with special needs and then to provide respite for the family to keep them well and happy.
If you are interested in pursuing fostering contact Life Without Barriers or have a chat with Allowah.
I am so glad I chose to “Trust God”.