“I kept having these dreams when I was young, about a house where I was looking after all these children,” Helen remembers.
But Helen put her youthful dreams aside. Life continued. Then Helen met her husband, James and together they had three children. They were content and at the time, Helen thought she was living out her dream.
Then years later, Helen’s dream came back. At the same time Helen’s reoccurring dreams started up again, she received a flyer in the mail about a foster care information evening through Wesley Dalmar – Wesley Mission’s out-of-home care service.
Reflecting on her dream and the timing of the flyer, Helen knew somehow God was involved. Already running a busy family schedule, Helen’s husband James was initially reluctant.
“At first, my husband said, ‘Oh, no, we’ve got our own family’. He wasn’t real keen,” Helen explains.
And while he was right, Helen struggled to let the idea go. But it was their 13-year-old daughter who encouraged them attend Wesley Dalmar’s information night. It’s a decision Helen has never regretted.
By the end of the information evening, Helen knew deep down foster care was a calling from God.
“I thought, ‘I really have to do this. I really feel this is something that would be great to do’,” Helen says.
“I’ve always had a desire to care for children, to work with children. And looking back, I feel it really was a calling from God to do that.”
So they all sat down as a family – Helen, James and their three children – to discuss the idea.
“We always included them. We had meetings around a table. We talked to them about it. They were also keen. I always said we wouldn’t do it unless the family was involved,” Helen says.
By the end of their conversation, James had made a 180 degree turn. “My husband said, ‘I’d really like to do the course’,” Helen explains.
Initially Helen and James thought they’d take on crisis care and short-term care. But towards the end of the foster care course, they switched pathways. Together they decided long-term foster care placements best suited their family situation.
And the rest is history. Helen’s dreams are now reality. Her house is full of children. For the last 18 years Helen and James have been foster carers for Wesley Dalmar. Alongside their three biological children, Helen and James have adopted three children and currently care for two foster children.
“I love having a house full of children. They’re all part of our family,” Helen says.
For Helen and James, the past 18 years have brought more joy into their lives than they could have ever expected. Their foster children have captured their hearts.
“You have your ups and downs but it’s just worth it to see them blossom, grow and learn and become adults themselves. It’s very rewarding,” Helen shares.
While Helen’s biological children have now all grown, they often fill their house with their eight grandchildren. And their two youngest foster children are similar ages to their biological grandchildren.
“It all works. We all fit in together,” Helen says.
While the days are sometimes long, and there’s always plenty to juggle between parenting duties, household chores and work, Helen says they can manage it because they work as a team.
“James, he’s my support. So, I do a lot of the caring side and he does a lot of the chores, goes to work and helps in the garden. We share the house work and then he’ll mind the kids if I’ve got to go out. I don’t think I could do it without him.”
And their support network extends to their church community, who’ve been there throughout their entire foster care journey. For Helen and James, they’re faith is at the centre of their family’s lives.
“That’s one of the reasons we are with Wesley Dalmar, because we were keen for whatever children we had here at the time, to come with us on Sunday to church,” Helen says.
“It’s lovely to be able to share that with these children – about a God who cares for them and loves them, and we hope that will continue in their lives.”
While Helen and James chose Wesley Dalmar because of their shared Christian values, Helen says they continue to stay with Wesley Mission because of the constant care, support and availability they receive.
“What I love is, you have your caseworker, you have a contact number. If they can’t get back to you straight away, they always return your calls. You might just want to download some days, and it’s just lovely having someone to talk to,” Helen says.
“There’s ongoing training too for any areas that you feel you might need a bit of help with. They’re just very supportive.”
For Helen and James, the person they can lean on is Rhianna – Wesley Dalmar caseworker.
“For me, to be able to ring up the caseworker and just download a bit, it’s a real help to me,” Helen explains.
“You always get feedback. We always keep in touch, so you don’t feel like you’re on your own.”
Rhianna adds, “Helen and James have always been very open people and they’re good at communicating and they’re really welcoming. They make it easy for you to go there and ask questions naturally and they include you so much in the kids’ lives. Helen will often send me photos of outings with the kids.”
And while they’ve had different caseworkers over the years, the quality of care has remained the same. This consistent support became critical across the six years it took to adopt their two sons and daughter.
Over the years Helen and James have maintained relationships with their foster children’s birth parents, and together they’ve seen the fruits from strengthening these relationships.
“The more people that love them, the better. As long as they are safe and their birth parents are loving towards them,” Helen says.
“I’ve always found if you are open and kind to them, it does make a difference and it keeps that connection. I’ve got a really good relationship with their families. So it’s like I’ve adopted other people into our family too.”
Rhianna adds, “Helen and James really live out that inclusivity with the birth families. And you really see that in the relationships that they have built with their foster children’s siblings and grandparents.
“I think they really live and breathe that Wesley Mission motto of just taking things the extra mile. You always want kids in care to feel like they’re a part of their foster family. I think that Helen and Jamie really live and breathe that value of family and of accepting others.”
For Helen, watching her family grow brings her both pride and joy. And the dreams she now holds for their futures, remains the same for all her children, because they’re all part of her family.
“The goals I have for them are the same sorts of goals you have for your own children. I hope they become Christians, where they can know that there is a God that cares about them.
“But also, that they have rewarding relationships. That they know that we love them and that they’re worth something and they go on to have their own families.”