[TESTIMONY] Permanent Foster Care
Ten years ago Shani Smith and her family decided to embark on their journey in foster care. After coming to know Christ and after then losing the family business and home, they turned to God for the next chapter of their lives.
“It became clear to our whole family that we were to stay in the area we lived and to look for the orphan in our neighbourhood. A chance meeting with another foster carer in a bookstore led us to call the office of Family and Community Services [FACS]. We have been fostering respite, short-term and permanent care placements in the 10 years since.”
Permanent Care of four foster children
With all four of her biological children grown up, Smith and her husband now have permanent care of four foster children: two sisters aged 13 and 10, and another sister and brother aged seven and five. “We mainly work with long-term placements now, which means we can invest deeply into the lives of these souls and start to work with the deep-rooted fears and hurts many adults never get to see freedom from,” she says.
“We work closely with psychologists through our foster care agency, other medical professionals, focus on good nutrition at home and keep daily family life pretty routine. It’s the mundane daily routine that most of these children never got that can be the biggest influence on their healing.”
Smith says the arrival of any new child into the “established mix” is always tumultuous. “Each child has their own unique personality and combined with the trauma they have experienced, it can make for a hectic household,” she says.
“Every child is desperate for love and attention –the things they have been denied the most – so it can be very draining in the early stages to ensure they feel your constant [presence] and care. Children from hard backgrounds have seen a lifetime in their short years.”
One of the struggles Smith faces is the challenge to divide her attention evenly between her children. “Trying to split myself into multiple pieces to tend to the needs of each child takes more than I can physically give in my human strength,” she says. “It forces me to stay very close to my Father’s heart and ask his spirit for infilling strength, patience, kindness and compassion when all I want to do is lay down and close my eyes in a quiet room for a few minutes!”
Overcoming great advertisty
However, because of the care the Smiths have given these children, they have overcome great adversity. This is a constant source of joy for Shani.
“Miss 7 missed over 90 per cent of kindergarten and began Year 1 well behind her peers,” she says. “Her early testing showed little or no recognition of the most basic key learning areas. But this gorgeous girl took to schooling like a duck to water and, by the end of the year, had almost caught up to her peers. Her teacher, with tears in his eyes, said at the end-of-year interview,
‘This is why I wanted to become a teacher. To help children like Miss 7 become all they were born to be’.”