Fiona's childhood was one of foster care. When she finally found acceptance at age eight, she was sent back to her mum. Hope for her died at age eight. Later as a single mum, she needed a lifeline. She was taken in by a church couple. Could they change her destiny?
The first time that the social welfare were notified of anything going on in our family was when I was 18 months old and my sister was four and a half. It was after one of mum and dad's big benders, and people were passed out cold in the house. My dad had gone off to get more booze, and my sister and I were literally playing in the middle of the street. I was only clothed in a nappy, which would've been in autumn at that stage.
The neighbour was duly horrified. She picked me up off the street and took me into the house. She was then terrified that my dad would come back and be angry and drunk. So she called the police, and said she was petrified. The police took me back and sorted the situation out. But from then on, we were kind of on the radar of the social welfare.
The weekend after my fifth birthday, my first week at school, my sister would grab me (sometimes by the hair if she had to) and drag me around to friends and neighbours at mealtimes. She would say, "Can we have some food? We're hungry and Mum's sick." On the Sunday night, we arrived at a family friend's place. There we were, eight and five years old, still dressed in the same clothes we'd been dressed in all weekend, asking for food yet again. And mum was sick yet again. So this lady did what anybody with brains would do. She called the welfare and she got us the help that we needed. We were made wards of the state and we went to different foster homes.
By my third year in foster care, I’d thought that I knew the routine. At Christmas, we went up to Gore to have Christmas with my mum and grandma. And then at New Year, we would go up to Timaru to my father's mother and my uncle and spend time with them. Then we’d retrace our steps back to be home with our foster families.
So that Christmas, we went up to Gore as usual, and there were presents from the foster family. Now in that family, the oldest son was about three or four years older than me. He loved to tease me because I would respond. He enjoyed it, but I didn't know that that was just what a normal family was like. I actually thought he hated me. So when I opened a Christmas present that was specifically from him, it opened something in me. I remember clearly thinking, “It's okay, it's safe. He doesn't hate me. I can't wait to go home.”
I had a great Christmas and New Year. This revelation that it was safe and I couldn't wait to go home would have had a very significant impact on how I was when I went back to the family. We were waiting to go back to Invercargill, to go back home to the families, when a car arrived. It was my sister's foster parents and they had all my sister's things with them and all mine. Hope died in that little eight year old girl that day. I never got to say goodbye to my foster family. They never got to say goodbye to me.
I had to behave as though it was all good though. Because the right thing to do was to be happy that I was going home with my mum. And in a way I was. But with that big revelation, from the Christmas gift to being told I was not going back there, it was hard.
For the following ten years, I was fully depressed. We went back to live with our mum. I managed to avoid my sister’s fists, but within a year, she was out partying and drinking and traveling around in cars with boys. By the time I was 12, I was doing the same with her. I got pregnant when I was 16, and had my baby before I turned 17. And I just carried on drinking. I carried on the lifestyle, carried on with the pain, thinking I was doing well.
It was really painful, pain on top of pain to the point that when my baby was about eight months old, I'd had enough. It was a beautiful April morning. I walked into the living room and she was sitting there, this beautiful blue-eyed, blonde, baby girl dribbling away. And I thought “I've had enough, I'm out.” I looked at her and I said, "You're coming too." Immediately, in my mind came a really graphic picture of how I would have to take my daughter's life before I could take my own. And it was shocking and it was graphic and it shocked me out of it. I thought, “I can't do that.” And then in the next breath, "Well, I'm stuck."
A couple of months later, for one reason or another, she ended up in hospital. The social welfare worker at the hospital decided that I was not suitable parent material and I needed to give her up for adoption. So, she and my doctor began to put pressure on me. "You know you're not doing well. You know you need to give this baby every opportunity to have a good life. You just need to give her up for adoption and get on with your life." But they didn't know that giving her up for adoption meant me not getting on with my life.
I think God is the great organizer. As I've thought of it recently, He conspired for my good. He had a plan in place, set in motion. There was a social welfare officer there who said, "Oh, hang on, I know a Christian couple that go to the New Life Church. They've got a farmhouse and they've said that if we've got a single mum who needs looking after, and needs a bit of mother care and training, that they would take her on. You could go and live with them." They put that to me, and I grabbed that lifeline with both hands.
So Kevin and Rose were my final foster family. When I went to live with Kevin and Rose, they presented a gospel to me that wasn't a set of rules and regulations. It was relationship. The main revelation I had right then was what Jesus had done personally for me in going to the cross. The Holy Spirit just slowly started working on me and stripping away my false identity, “the good girl”. Up to that point, I thought I'd gotten away with it. I was the good girl. Nothing had hurt me. My sister was an alcoholic, my parents were alcoholics, but I was unaffected. I cried for a week, realizing that I wasn't unaffected at all.
The hope I have in Jesus now, it's growing. It's still, I find it often hard to articulate a lot of these things, but I know I have hope. And I know it's growing in me to a point where I think I'll be able to articulate it better at some point. But I think the way it works out in me is that I don't expect the worst all the time. I don't expect that one day my husband will just stop loving me. I believe that there's good stuff coming, I have an expectation of good now. And I think that's how I would define hope in my life. I have an expectation of good.