Throughout the Bible we are told of God’s heart for the vulnerable, and particularly those without a family to love and protect them. In James 1, it says the “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress".
Every 15 minutes in the UK a child comes into care. There is a current crisis in the foster system due to COVID-19, and more homes are urgently needed. The Christian charity Home for Good is working to find 10 new foster homes in BANES through the Church community. Is this something that God might be calling you to?
My parents fostered over 100 children over about 25 years. They started when I was 11 years old, and my sister was 13 - we had children of all ages and backgrounds come and live in our home. Some stayed for just one night, others for over a year, and some are still in contact with us and others now have children of their own.
The experience was a melting pot of real privilege (entrusted with the care of such precious children), exhaustion (waking with babies throughout the night), joy (watching them grow and change and move back to birth family or on to long term homes) and loss (building bonds and then having to say goodbye). We cared for a baby whose abuse was so severe we collected them from hospital whilst their parent was imprisoned. We cared for children who arrived on the doorstep with nothing other than the clothes they were wearing. These things were heart-breaking. However, we were quick to see how love, security and a routine can be transformational to a child who has grown up in a chaotic and abusive home. Watching children slowly settle and often then flourish was absolutely amazing. We loved the children like they were our own, and as my parents got older they became more like grandparents which was a special shift.
At times though it was incredibly difficult and our family wasn’t always able to cope with certain behaviour and so sadly, on occasion, a placement fell through. But often children would stay until they could return home to their better supported parents, or move to a long term foster or adoptive home.
Our family’s Church was hugely instrumental in our ability to foster. I can remember the older members in particular, learning each of the children’s names and taking time to get to know them. It meant the children having this wonderfully loving community of grandparent-like people around them and many of them loved going to Church and were introduced to faith. My parents moved up north half way through their fostering time, but one weekend went back to their old church. They hadn’t been for months and when they walked in, they saw one of their old foster sons, now a young adult, sitting on the front row. They were out of contact and sadly, he was now staying in a hostel, but had wanted to go back to the Church where he had gone as a child and we presume felt safe and loved. It was a God ordained reunion.
Our family were by no means perfect and a running joke at home was just how different we were to a foster family on the TV show Home and Away that we used to watch. The foster mother was called Pippa and she and her home were perfect in every way. We used to call my mum “Pippa” as a joke and she would laugh as she served up another meal of fish fingers and beans (Pippa would always make healthy homemade meals, having counselled half the local community and so on!).
The Christian charity Home for Good works to encourage and equip Christians in fostering and adoption. They are offering online information and training sessions for people exploring both. Do check out their website: www.homeforgood.org.uk and feel free to contact the local representative, Dave Kingswood on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I pray that God will stir the hearts of our congregation to consider how we might respond to the needs of such vulnerable children.