Taking the massive decision to let someone else’s children enter your life to be loved and nurtured must be one of the hardest, but the most important choice a couple can make.
Wanting to give back to the community, and help a child become the best person they can be, is one of the most selfless and inspirational things one can do – but it comes with a lot of time, dedication, and some uncertainty.
Lovin Malta spoke to a Maltese couple who fostered a boy and a girl since they were babies. They gave an insight into what the reality of fostering in Malta is, and how their lives changed after they made their fateful decision.
“It all started when we began hosting siblings a boy and a girl back in 2002.”
Living as a childless couple in a small Maltese village, Raymond and Josephine Calleja* began hosting Russian siblings who were living in an institution in their homeland. They would stay for three months during the summer, then go back to Russia, and return nine months later.
However, Raymond and Josephine began to see the positive impact they were having on the boy and the girl, who began calling them ‘mom and dad’ as the years went by.
The Callejas began to seriously think about the extra space in their home, and in their lives. That’s when Josephine turned to Raymond with an interesting proposition.
“My wife told me that since we do not have any children of our own, and we have the resources to take care of a child, she said: ‘why don’t we go for fostering?'” Raymond recounts.
“Just imagine if they were with us for 24 hours a day… we felt we could contribute to society much more than we were,” Josephine says.
But it wasn’t all straight sailing.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” says Raymond. “It wasn’t an easy decision. My wife was sure about it, but I wasn’t.”
However, after a year of tossing and turning over the big decision, he decided it was time.
“We took one year to decide… but then it was like a mission. One day I got up and I just called the number and soon enough we were doing the course to become foster carers,” he says.
While some people dropped out of the course over time, the Callejas didn’t. And soon enough, it was time to begin.
“It was like a miracle, I couldn’t believe my life, having to take care of a baby all by ourselves.”
It was sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when they got a phone call telling them they had been approved to foster a child.
“We were shopping at a supermarket when we got a call – a girl with withdrawal had been born recently and needed a new family,” Raymond says.
The couple had wanted a young baby, to develop with her as she grew, so they took the opportunity and said yes.
“In our first meeting, she was actually already being fostered by another family, and she was passed onto us. She was just two-months-old, but this baby already had a beautiful pair of eyes that as soon as you made eye contact, she made an impact… always observing what’s around her,” Josepine says.
And when they met the girl’s biological mother, who was just 15 years old herself, the couple couldn’t help but wonder if she needed to be fostered as well.
Soon after, they began fostering a one-year-old boy. Raymond and Josephine were even able to develop a healthy relationship with the boy’s natural mother.
“If we are pulling the rope together, it’s not strange knowing the biological parents. But if we are pulling opposite ways then it can get bad, and the children notice immediately,” Raymond says.
Fast forward to 2019, and life is as good as it gets: “When you see them, they are like brother and sister… they call us mom and dad, and we live like a family of four. We are a normal family, we play, and we fight,” he says.
The kids are now 11-year-olds, and Raymond and Josephine send them to school as if they were their natural children.
However, they are well aware of the fears of other couples and parents interested in fostering, namely that the children that they grow to love will be taken from them eventually.
“When they see that you’ve begun fostering, some people will tell you: ‘they are going to take them away from you one day’,” says Josephine.
“If I listened to people and lived by what they said, my daughter wouldn’t have lived with me for 11 years… and that’s what’s really important. Take them into your life like they are your own, and leave the future in the hands of God,” she says.
“I tell people who are interested in fostering that no one is going to take them from you. When you enter fostering, you are there for a need, a need that the children have. I start thinking, ‘if they weren’t here with us they would be in an institution right now’,” she says.
“If you want to be secure, adopt. But for us, if it is time for our daughter to go back to her biological family, and the family is rehabilitated, that’s that. You need to keep this in mind: I entered fostering to give, not to have. I didn’t enter to have kids, but to give back to the children and the community, to give a sense of family where there wasn’t before,” she ends powerfully.
*Names have been changed