Not just a place to live, for that’s just somewhere to put your possessions and to sleep at the end of the day, but a home. A home where unconditional love surrounds you. Where you are safe. Where you can thrive and grow. That is what most of us want, even if the desire is buried deep. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case all the time. Most of us are loved by someone, but human love isn’t perfect. At times it gets corrupted, or appears to have ceased altogether. The most heart breaking of these occasions is when it happens to children. A child’s home can shatter or never even be formed for a variety of reasons. From abuse and neglect to a parents illness rendering them unable to care for their child. Whatever the cause, between April 2014 and March 2015, 31,070 children and young people became “looked after” in England. A figure that has increased year on year for the last four years. Local authorities work hard for the best of each of the children in their care ( there are 69,540 across England) but what happens to those who can’t find the place where they fit? They move from foster (or residential) home to foster home, increasing their distrust and dislike for everyone involved in the process.
A recent Freedom of Information request made by Action for Children revealed that 1 in 4 foster children in the UK moves home two or more times a year (April 2014 to March 2015). This is outrageous. Could you (an adult, probably) imagine moving home every six months or even less, let alone a child. They shouldn’t have to. This is one of the things Home for Good wants to see change. They aim to find a home for every child that needs one. Whether that be a committed foster family or a ‘home for good’ with adoption, they want every looked-after child to feel safe, secure and loved. What is their motivation, you may ask? Well, God and what He has done for us. He is a heavenly Father who has adopted into His family everyone who places their trust in Him. He has given us sonship, through Jesus we are called to be His sons and daughters. Not only are the people part of Home for Good motivated by the fact they have been adopted into sonship by the ultimate father but also because, they as believers are called to reach out and help those in need. A verse that shows us this is in the bible book James 1:27 NIV( New International Version)
” Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
It is not just in the new testament (where this book is found) that the vulnerable are of great concern. In old testament times farmers would not collect all of their crop so that the poor would be able to come along and gather some for themselves. Loving others is at the heart of the Christian message.
“ We love because he first loved us“ –1 John 4:19 NIV.
It is a call to all of us who believe in Jesus.
Home for Good have worked out that if just one family from each of the approximate 15,000 churches in the UK were to step forward and foster or adopt, they would fulfil the need. So part of their work is speaking with churches (the people, not the building) across the UK, dispelling myths and sharing with them the part they can play. The whole church can play a part in making a massive difference in a child or young person’s life, just as they do with birth children. Many of my friends speak positively of being raised in a church family, of having people other than your immediate family who wanted the best for them and supported them.
Some of you may think that this approach is wrong, that taking a child to church is forcing them to do something they shouldn’t have to do. Well the church shouldn’t be, and in my experience isn’t, in the habit to force anybody to do anything. It isn’t our place to. Even God doesn’t force us to do things. I am fairly certain that the majority of people who foster or adopt are well trained and conscientious enough to respect the wishes of young person who didn’t want to go to church, I know of a family where that is the case. Part of the equipping Home for Good does is about how to support the families and children involved.
Amongst the many activities they are involved in is coffee and ironing mornings. These sessions are for foster and adoptive parents to come together over a tea or coffee and take time to talk and support each other whilst a group of volunteers do the ironing they have taken along. What seems like a relatively small act has reportedly been a great help. The support that fosterers and adopters can give each other is extremely valuable as the challenges are many and the triumphs are so encouraging.
In an effort to get every church involved, each year they hold Adoption Sunday. This is a chance one a year to focus on the need for homes for vulnerable children and to pray about the opportunities to help the ones in their communities. Over 300 churches took part last year. The video below gives you some more information. Some, like a few near me, got together with other churches in the community a little while afterwards to make a community wide effort to deal with the need in the area. I already held a special place in my heart for looked after children and young people but that Sunday doubled my desire to do something. We all can have a part to play. At some point in the future I would love it if fostering was part of God’s plan for me but in the mean time there are other ways I can help. As part of the youth team at church it is possible I may come across looked after children. If I do I can do my best to make them feel welcome and loved. I have friends in the church that are considering becoming foster parents; I can support them in prayer and perhaps do some odd jobs for them. I may even end up working with young people in care. Whatever is in store for me I hope I can help in some way.
Can you help? Even if you aren’t a Christian, have you ever considered how you could make a positive difference to a young person’s life?