A home for every child who needs one
How whole churches are being encouraged and equipped to respond to the needs of children in the care system. By Kirsty McIntyre
Thirty-five thousand children enter the care system every year. Many are removed from traumatic, chaotic, abusive or neglectful situations. Some will need a home for a few nights, some for a few years, while some will not be able to return to their birth families and will become one of the thousands of children who are currently waiting for a permanent adoptive family.
In 2011, the shortage of adoptive parents and foster carers hit the UK headlines; several Christian leaders, who were also adopters or foster carers, committed to working together to raise the profile of adoption and fostering across the Church in the UK. Home for Good was launched as an initiative of the Evangelical Alliance, Care for the Family and The Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service in March 2013 after a period of consulting with adopters, foster carers, church leaders and social work professionals.
The campaign to see adoption and fostering become a significant part of the life and ministry of the UK Church grew over the next year, and in September 2014, Home for Good became a registered charity with a vision to find a home for every child who needs one by inspiring, encouraging and equipping the Church to respond to the need.
Since then, Home for Good has been so encouraged to see churches up and down the country playing their part in caring for vulnerable children and the families who welcome them into their homes. Some families are called to adopt or foster, others are an essential part of the communities that support them through prayer and practical acts of service.
Some churches have re-shaped how they run services to make sure they cater to the needs of looked after children, others have adapted their language to include ‘carers’ when sharing notices from the front to ensure every family feels included. More than 300 churches took part in Adoption Sunday last year; some of these prayed for children in the care system, others celebrated our adoption into God’s family in their preaching and worship.
Home for Good believes that the Church in the UK can be part of solution for the 4,000 children waiting to be adopted, and to meet the need for an additional 9,000 foster carers required this year.
Hear from two Baptist churches where fostering and adoption is a key part of church life:
Chrissie is a foster carer who is a member of Gold Hill Baptist Church.
She says: 'I have found that, as a church, we are very good at providing emotional, spiritual and practical support. It's part of our DNA. As a Home for Good church we are learning how to embrace vulnerable children, and adapting our ways to wrap our arms around them and the families they are in.
'For our church, this often looks like providing respite care, cooking meals when new placements arrive, looking out for birth children?and throwing adoptive showers!” and that when her family comes to say goodbye to a placement, ”I know we will be dependent on each other as well as my church community, family and friends.'
Sarah is also a foster carer who attends Slough Baptist Church.
She says: 'We have had so much support from members of church family – from being referees for our application, finding a cot for us from the loft at 11pm and clothes, DBS checked babysitting support, providing meals when children arrive or during the transition time to a new family, prayer support, a listening ear, cleaning, giving us toys, letting their children become friends with the foster children even though they might not be here for long, loaning of a car during the week of transition when ours broke down and then someone paid towards the cost, treating the foster children as part of our family and church family – presents, cards, inviting us over, practical and emotional help for our birth children, paying for us to go to Spring Harvest as they thought we needed a holiday and building up spiritually after we moved a child on.
'Not everyone can foster but lots of people can be a support network around a fostering family – even if that means understanding there may be some different behaviours in children and being a welcoming church.'
Kirsty McIntyre is the Head of Engagement at Home for Good
Could your church stand with the vision to find a home for every child who needs one by becoming a Home for Good church? Find out more and sign up.
This article appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of Baptists Together magazine