‘Blessed and touched’ by foster son
When Pastor Terence Stovell was introduced to an infant being fostered by one of his congregation, he had no idea the child would change his life.
Now, more than a decade later, Pastor Stovell is proud to call young Jayden his son.
“It’s hard to tell now when he really entered our lives. It’s like he’s always been there,” the Pastor said. “While Jayden might not have been our biological child, he is our child.”
Pastor Stovell, of Better Covenant Christian Fellowship, said that when he first married his wife Jeanann 28-years ago, they had decided to have a single child. While the couple had hoped for a son, they were instead blessed with two daughters.
The family first met Jayden when he was brought to their church by a parishioner who was fostering the infant.
“He was only about two months, three months old,” he said. “All I can remember was watery eyes.
“Little did we know at the time our lives would intersect and that he would become a permanent fixture of our life.”
After several months, the foster mother approached the Pastor about looking after Jayden while she went overseas.
On that occasion he said Jayden was with their family for a few weeks before returning to his foster parent. Months later, the foster parent came to Pastor Stovell about taking Jayden in again over the Christmas holiday.
“She wanted JD to have Christmas with a family, so that year he came to us,” he said. “He was only about 15 months or so. We again had to go through the process.
“We had a wonderful holiday, buying gifts and all of that. That Christmas extended and he stayed a little longer. It went from weeks to months, from months to years.”
He said after a time, the fostering situation did become more difficult because of the family environment.
“He was in an environment where he heard two other children calling these two adults mummy and daddy,” Pastor Stovell said. “It’s a challenge in foster care. Well, he started to call us mummy and daddy.
“I understand this is a danger in foster care, but he grew on us so much that my daughters had this wonderful, wonderful idea that maybe we should have an addition to the family.
“And we had to pray about that. Well, it didn’t really take much praying. We began to ask questions, about how to make him permanent in our home.”
Eventually, he said they were able to win full custody of young Jayden, now 14, in the courts.
“I will never forget it. We stood outside the court and my wife was in tears,” he said. “My wife told him, ‘You were not born in mummy’s stomach, you were born in mummy’s heart’. He was the son she always said she wanted.”
Speaking yesterday at an appreciation tea party for foster parents, organised by the Ministry of Community and Cultural Development, the Pastor said that he firmly believes that the health of families in a society is directly linked to the health of the society as a whole.
“A child needs its parents, and if it doesn’t have its biological parents, then someone has to step in,” he said.
“Our children, whether they can articulate it or not, our children are safest within the confines of a healthy family.
“We would have done this had we got compensated or not. We gave not to Jayden our stuff, we gave him ourselves. Even if he had not stayed with us and moved on, the time he would have spent with us would have impacted his life.
“Maybe he will be the hero of someone else’s life because he was healed in his own life. He has blessed and touched our lives. He has expanded us and made us grow. Our lives are better as a result of having that boy, our son, in our lives.”
Dozens of foster parents were thanked this weekend for their dedication and commitment in improving the lives of the Island’s children.“When you have to make a decision about any child, make a decision as if you gave birth to the child because they are your children,” he said. “I don’t want any child to feel that they are less than because of circumstances that are beyond their control.
The Ministry of Community and Cultural Development hosted an “Appreciation Tea” for foster parents yesterday at the Hamilton Princess.
Alfred Maybury, Director of Child and Family Services, said that while foster families have a huge impact on the children they care for, the children have just as large an impact on the foster parents.
He told the group: “This road is difficult, and I know this road is difficult because I get a lot of calls and a lot of messages from foster parents and often they want to give up, but we have to recognise that despite the challenges, it’s worth it.”
While he said the foster care programme is expensive, he promised that he would continue to fight so that those involved in the programme can get whatever assistance they need.
“I know we are going to fuss over money, but I will sort it out. You children will get whatever they need as long as they need it if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I would rather pay $100,000 for education and a degree than $80,000 a year for the rest of their lives [in Westgate].”
And in an emotional speech Minister Without Portfolio Leah Scott also thanked the families, saying that many children in foster care feel responsible for what has happened to them.
“They don’t understand what happened to them, they can’t change what happened to them, and nothing they could have done would make their circumstances any different than what they are,” she said.
“They are innocent victims who want and need love, and that’s were you guys come in. Folks with great big hearts who just want to give love to someone that you didn’t give birth to.
“I know that thank you is really inadequate for what you do, but it’s the only word that I can use.”