Just a few miles from where I live six girls aged between 11 and 15 years old were raped by a gang of men. The tragedy is that this did not just take place once, but repeatedly over a period of eight years with physical violence involving knives, baseball bats, meat cleavers and hard drugs. The girls were in the care system and despite numerous cries for help, for a long time they were ignored. Sadly many children in the care system are seen as insignificant, irredeemable and inconsequential – we want children to know a different story.
Record numbers of children are coming into care so that the system is bursting at the seams; so sadly stories like this are not unprecedented. In response, the Evangelical Alliance, Care for the Family and the Churches Child Protection Agency Service have launched the Home for Good campaign. Our prayer is that by asking churches to encourage, pray for and support more foster carers and adoptive carers to step forward from our churches, more children will find homes where they are truly accepted, listened to, cared for and valued. Here are three ways that fostering and adoption will change the world:
It can change your world
We have only been foster carers for seven years but it changed our world from day one. Because we had three birth children already when we were approved, we thought we knew a few things about parenting. But our eyes were quickly opened to the challenges and trauma that children in care have had to face. As we heard the heartbreaking stories of addiction, chaos, abuse and neglect that children we have cared for have experienced, there was something inside of us that made us want to do everything we could to show something of God’s perfect love and kindness to children who have suffered so much. We have learned the power of therapeutic parenting and the impact of helping children to rebuild trust and form meaningful attachments. This could have frustrated our birth children but it has been a delight to see them grow in understanding, compassion, and through the experience of learning to care for foster siblings. Constantly juggling meeting everyone’s needs is hard work – but to be honest it has been an immense privilege to offer a loving home to some wonderful children. Taking a child to the beach or the cinema for the first time or treating them on their birthday, or just watching them develop physically, socially and emotionally is incredibly rewarding for everyone involved. Yes, we have helped change the lives and futures of vulnerable children, but thanks to our foster children, our lives also have been changed and deeply enriched.
It can change your church
Like many churches ours was a predominantly middle class church and we were used to praying for typical middle class concerns. But a growing passion for fostering and adoption has spread through our church. In our small church, there are two adoptive families, and three fostering families. But this is the tip of the iceberg. Most of our church members express affection and interest in the lives of the adopted and fostered children, and go the extra mile to help the families involved with them. They have provided toys, clothes and practical support. They have helped us access appropriate medical treatment. They have laughed and cried with us. They have prayed for the wider issues around poverty, deprivation, mental health issues, rehabilitation and neglect. They have committed themselves to supporting local struggling parents. When we threw a farewell party for a little girl who had been with us for three years half the church turned up and many were in tears when they left. Despite having never said a word due to her disabilities she had deeply impacted everyone with our loving nature, kind disposition and winning smile. Our church has become a more loving and caring community because of its encounter with vulnerable children.
It can change our nation
I am nervous every time I pick up the newspaper that I will come across yet another bad news story about the Church. We have developed a reputation for being judgemental hypocrites, saying and doing the wrong things at the wrong time. Thanks to excellent initiatives like food banks, Street Pastors and Christians Against Poverty things are beginning to change as our local communities begin to see the love of God demonstrated practically through our churches. Fostering and adoption has the potential to change our nation. Successful committed placements reduce the chance of scarred children turning to crime or drugs or becoming homeless, sectioned, or incarcerated later in life. But we do not need to wait 18 years to make a national impact. Currently there are 4,600 children waiting to be adopted, and recruitment teams desperate to find 9,000 more foster families to keep up with the growing crisis of large numbers of children coming into care on a daily basis. The Church can meet this entire national need. Through Care for the Family, CCPAS (Church’s Child Protection Advisory Service) and the Evangelical Alliance, 15,000 churches are being asked to find one family in their congregation who can open their home for the good of vulnerable children, and wrap around that family with informed and committed encouragement and support. What better way of showing the unconditional, sacrificial compassion of God than to open our hearts and homes to these children? What a radical way to see change in ourselves, our churches, and our nation. Come and join us. Together we can do this.
Let’s make sure a cry for help never goes unheard from a child in care – lets find them all a home for good.