Home General News God asked them to love babies through foster care, Australia granted them an OAM

God asked them to love babies through foster care, Australia granted them an OAM

by ervte

Carolyn Stedman was in her kitchen on the north coast of Sydney when she heard an advertisement on the radio that there was a dire shortage of foster parents in NSW. The young mother already had two children, ages 4 and 2 – and planned to have more – but her response was immediate.

“I thought, ‘I like being at home with my kids; I never liked going to the city to work. I did, but it wasn’t one of my favorite things to do. I like going to kindergarten. And I know I have patience with children. I could do that,” she tells Eternity.

“So when they gave a phone number over the radio, I wrote down the phone number, and when David came home, we had a chat about it. And the next thing we noticed was we were in training and then had our first placement.”

That was in 1976, and in the intervening 46 years, Carolyn and David have raised 74 children — mostly babies, often born to drug-addicted mothers or those left in the hospital.God asked them to love babies through foster care, Australia granted them an OAM

Carolyn and David were recognized this week for their outstanding service with medals from the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honors list.

David and Carolyn Stedman

Carolyn continued placing babies in temporary foster care while raising her six children, although she took a two-year break after having each baby. “And it worked,” she says.

Nor did they always come individually. “They like to keep groups of siblings together. So we often had two brothers or two sisters together and three sets of twins over the years.”

There was a time when the Stedmans had nine children under one roof – their own six and three extras. “That just happened when the census man came along,” David told Channel 7.

“He gave us one form, and there was only room for six. So we had to chase him and get another form. And he said, ‘What have you got there, a congregation?'”

Carolyn says she prefers to have one baby at a time because they are often unwell and need extra care.

“Most of them withdraw from something or have been neglected or mistreated. So they are needy, and doing one at a time is easier,” she says.

“Even 18 months later, you can tell which babies drug addicts are because once you are a drug addict, you are always a drug addict whether you use or not. I can see the behavior of children born to drug addicts.”

“Even 18 months later, you can tell which babies drug addicts are.”

While stressing that she has no medical training, Carolyn says such children are tense and jumpy with tight muscles and unable to sit still.

When “heroin babies” cry, their screams are especially piercing, which Carolyn says has damaged her hearing.

“I wear hearing aids now, and I think it’s because some of the heroin babies screamed in my ear when you were breastfeeding them, and their heads are on your shoulder.”

Her strategies to calm the babies were firm swaddling and lots of exercises.

“Drug-addicted babies like to be constantly moved, petted, or put on the bouncy castle. The last baby we had, one night, I rocked her in the bouncer for five hours. I fed her in that time, but only five. For hours, I just rocked her with my foot while I watched television – it’s not too taxing – but that was the only way to keep her quiet.”

“It also made them appreciate being bought into a stable, loving family.”

Carolyn says her kids loved helping out when they were teens.

“When we had twins, our older teenage girls would sometimes take one of the babies in their bedroom and feed them just to give us a break.”

She believes the experience gave her children a “very realistic expectation of what it was like to care for babies. I think it also gave them an appreciation to have been bought into a stable, loving family when they heard all the traumatic stories that came with this one.” children heard.

“Everyone has a very different traumatic story, but they are all terrible. We’ve had a few babies that were neglected. One arrived with three broken limbs from pushing – an arm and both legs were broken. Often they come with a diaper that has been on for days and days and days. And it would help if you soaked them in a bath to get it off,” she says.

“On the other hand, there are babies that we have taken from the hospital who have not been addicted to drugs. They were just left in the hospital because their mother didn’t want them, and she’s hiding, and no one can find her.”

“God expects you to use your gift while you can.”

Carolyn is now 75 and has no plans to stop caring for babies until she has to.

“I believe that we have a God-given gift, the gift of caring, and if God has given you a gift, God expects you to use it. So God expects you to use your gift while you can, and if you can’t, then you can stop.” so many people say to us, ‘When are you going to stop doing this?’ And I say, “Well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about retirement.” I’ve been going to church a lot every Sunday all my life. And I’ve never heard of a sermon on retirement.

Carolyn says she often seeks prayer support from her church and Bible study friends.

“The most recent child we had for 18 months, a sweet little child of 18 months, is about to be deported because she is an illegal immigrant, and that’s what we do in Australia. So our Bible study groups are praying for this little girl who will be evicted next week. That’s heartbreaking.

“So to have the honor of this award and be able to promote a little bit more for foster care and what a great service it is and how necessary it is, that’s a real privilege.”

Carolyn admits that while many days are hard, there is joy in seeing a child develop naturally and well.

“The last baby we had, she had syphilis and also abstained from drugs – and they thought she had cerebral palsy. That little girl was doing well. She was doing too well; by the time she left, she could climb onto the dining table and open any kitchen cabinet door, and when she got the TV remote in her hand, she could run faster than me!”

Carolyn and David take every child to church and ensure that every child leaves behind a children’s Bible from Bible Society Australia.

“Our last posting took her ‘Bible for Bubs’ back to Thailand because it’s a wonderful children’s Bible. Whoever made the graphics is very talented, and they are beautiful.”

Exposure to the rigors of raising children has not stopped her children from starting a family. “Let me tell you, we have 26 grandchildren, so they progressed and multiplied. One has six; one has five, and some have four.”

The youngest Stedmans, Cate Giovanelli, wrote on Facebook about her conflicting feelings about her experiences with foster care.

“I wasn’t always proud when I was asked as a teenager to rock the new baby’s crib for the thousandth time because they went cold turkey and wouldn’t stop screaming. I wasn’t always proud when Mommy couldn’t take me to ‘this or that because of ‘the baby’. And I didn’t feel proud when I had to say goodbye to a soul we’d taken in, a soul we’d nursed and nurtured and hugged until they fell in love with us and we with them,” she wrote.

“When I saw them being taken away by the government employee, even as a ten-year-old, I thought, ‘Who knows she wants her favorite toy when she’s crying like that?’ or “Will she sit alone in her crib at night crying because she doesn’t know where we are?” I’d say heartbreak was something I learned to “manage” from a young age and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that heartbreak is uncontrollable, and it doesn’t get any easier the more your heart bears it.

“I felt proud when I was FINALLY allowed to be ‘not the baby’ as the youngest of six, and I had a younger brother or sister to live on. And I was proud that when those babies were taken from my family at the end of their time, I could see how much love was in them now. To show they had seen and felt and lived in love. How loved they had been. About how they overcame addiction or broken bones while we loved them. And I always hoped that no matter where they went, ey would be changed from what they were and never forget that they were loved even if they wouldn’t remember us.

“I did not choose this youth for myself. But my parents do. And today, they are recognized. Well done, Mom and Dad.”

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