Just after Christmas 2017, the Rev Mat Yeo and his wife Sarah got a call from Anglicare about their first foster child. They’d done training and checks in the months prior and had only been approved as foster carers a week or so earlier. Now, for the first time in years, they were responsible for a baby.

“Our feeling was a little bit of nervousness and a lot of ‘Let’s get going!’” he recalls. “We knew it was going to be an adventure, and we couldn’t wait to have this precious child join our family.”

Mr Yeo was first prompted to think about foster care when he met up with a fellow minister and his wife, and heard they were fostering.

“I thought, ‘What an excellent thing to do – a great way to show the love of God – and we could also be in a position to do this’,” he says. “So, I came home and brought it up with Sarah, and found she’d already been thinking about it.”

Adds Sarah: “My heart went, ‘Yes!’ because it just seemed perfect for us... The seed had been planted when I was younger, so it had always been in the back of my mind. I had also been a stay-at-home Mum and we had five kids, love children and had coped well with that… and as they had grown, I had been thinking, ‘Should I be working? What should I be doing with my time?’ With this, all the little pieces fit together.”

The couple had decided they were best placed to look after babies, and were approved to care for children up to the age of two. In the years since, they have cared for children for between six and 18 months – one of whom came to them at six weeks of age, while the rest came virtually straight from the hospital.

A foster family was a new experience for their church at Hurstville Grove, but Mrs Yeo says members have been supportive right from the start – helping with clothes and extra food – as well as being curious and full of questions.

Their children, aged between 10 and 18 when they began, were also very happy to have younger foster siblings to love.

“When our first [foster child] was leaving I was a mess – your heart breaks each time,” Mrs Yeo says. “I saw our children getting upset and I thought, ‘Are we traumatising our children?’ But when I said something to my son about it, he said, ‘But the joy is so much more’.”

Adds Mr Yeo: “Detaching is filled with grief but that is no reason not to do it. It’s so worthwhile. I think it’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done as a family together. It’s been great for our family. But I also think, for the children that we’ve had, it’s been excellent to have foster siblings.”

Christian care – for kids and carers

Hurstville Grove hosted a foster carers information evening last month, with people attending from Anglican parishes across the St George area. 

Mr and Mrs Yeo and one of their daughters were part of a Q & A panel, and members of Anglicare’s foster care team spoke about the ongoing need for carers – there are 16,000 kids in out-of-home care in NSW – as well as the process of becoming a carer, and a support initiative known as the Foster Circle.

“The concept of the Foster Circle is realising that to be a foster carer is not an easy thing – there is a lot of joy, but we know that it is hard,” says Anglicare’s foster care and adoption chaplain, the Rev Bethany Downes, who attended the event. “So, how can we create a community that wraps around this child and this family to provide them with the different types of support they need, so it’s a flourishing placement and flourishing family for that child to be in? 

“We know not everyone can become a foster carer, but there are different ways in which people can be involved this ministry... and having that deep understanding that God has adopted us into his family as Christians motivates us to reach out to vulnerable children with the love, care and concern that God has shown us.”

"there are different ways in which people can be involved this ministry..."

Anglicare is delighted that a number of people at the event have already inquired further about becoming foster carers, or are keen to learn more about the process and how to offer support. 

“We have been greatly encouraged by the response from churches to Anglicare’s Foster Circle initiative,” says Meredith Donkin, the organisation’s foster care relationship lead. “Our goal was to pilot this program with five churches by the end of this year, and remarkably, we’ve already achieved that target, with interest continuing to grow.

“We believe that a strategic partnership between Anglicare and the local church can transform the current foster care story in NSW and provide a wider network of support for vulnerable children and foster families. Together, we can imagine a future where we have a waiting list of families instead of a waiting list of children.”

Find out more about future foster care information events.