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Children matter more than prejudices

by
01 November 2013

Christians should not be put off by misconceptions about adoption and fostering, argues Krish Kandiah

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EVERY day, more than 50 children are taken into care in the UK. As a result, 9000 foster placements are now needed, and 5000 children are waiting to be adopted. The Church can make a difference. It is time for every Christian to practise the kind of religion that God deems acceptable: "caring for widows and orphans in their distress" (James 1.27).

That is why 200 churches in Britain will be taking part in the first national Adoption Sunday on 3 November. It is being organised as part of Home for Good, an initiative from Care for the Family, the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service, and the Evangelical Alliance to change the culture in churches, in order to make adopting and fostering a significant part in their ministry.

Adoption Sunday comes at the beginning of National Adoption Week, an annual event organised by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF). This year, the focus is on overcoming the false information that surrounds adoption.

We are joining in to help to dispel the fallacies that many Christians believe about the care system. I would like to challenge five in particular.

 

1. 'I'm too poor/young/old/busy/single. . .'

THIS summer, I met a foster family in their late 60s at the Keswick Convention, who were camping with a three-week-old baby. I came across a single woman in her 30s, who had had more than 100 placements since she began fostering in her 20s. I know a bishop, a barrister, an oil executive, and a fork-lift truck driver who are foster or adoptive parents. People from all walks of life and income levels are being approved as carers across the UK. Don't rule yourself out.

If you really want to care for vulnerable children, then the selection process will help you to discover whom you can best support. It may be a teenager with disabilities for one weekend each month; or a five-year-old who has been waiting for months for a "forever home"; or a baby who needs a carer for only a few weeks. All sorts of children need all sorts of homes.

2. 'Social workers don't like Christians'

A SOCIAL WORKER is pulling her hair out, trying to find a doctor who is willing to look at a foster child's dressings to allow him to go on holiday with his new foster family. She and three colleagues have spent hours phoning round GP surgeries.

When the foster carer finds out, he makes a call to a Christian doctor in the next town, and within the hour, the boy has been seen to, and is on his way to a caravan holiday the like of which he has never had before. The social worker is amazed: "I wish everyone had a support network like this," she says.

Every time I run a workshop for people considering fostering or adoption, the number-one fear that Christians have is that social workers will automatically rule them out because of their beliefs. It is true that some social workers lack understanding, or even are prejudiced about faith, but that is true in any workplace, and even in some churches.

On the whole, the system is not biased against Christians, and there are many Christian social-work professionals. Many local authorities and adoption agencies are now approaching churches through the Home for Good campaign because they recognise that Christians are often motivated and properly supported to take on what can be a self-sacrificial task.

 

3. 'I'm not good enough as a parent as it is'

THOSE of us who have never been parents worry that we do not have the skills to look after a child in care. Those of us who are already parents know that we constantly make mistakes. But if this was our only consideration, nobody would come forward to adopt or foster children who desperately need parents, even imperfect ones.

I remember giving my six-month-old son a plastic toy phone that I found on my driveway. He loved it. Several weeks later, however, when he was playing with it, a flame shot out of the top. That was just one of our "we-are-the-worst-parents-ever" moments, as we realised that we had been allowing him to play with a cigarette-lighter.

I could give you many other examples. But children in care are not looking for perfect parents. They need loving parents who are humble enough to be trained how to help children who have experienced trauma. Thankfully, the support we receive from our local authority is helping us to become better parents to our birth, adopted, and fostered children.

 

4. 'Fostering and adoption would distract me from ministry'

NOT every Christian is called to be a foster or adoptive parent, but playing our part in caring for the vulnerable is one of the highest priorities that God gives to his people. In Isaiah 1.13-17, God criticises Israel for failing to defend the cause of the widow or orphan, and argues that they should not bother assembling until this part of their worship is rectified.

Despite many Christians' living as if vulnerable children were someone else's problem, God makes it clear that they are our responsibility. Yes, we might have to miss occasional church services, or step down from the coffee rota, but caring for children in our homes is a vital ministry. Let's hear the challenge to rediscover this, or at least to release others into it.

5. 'Children in care are troublemakers'

ONCE we were introduced to our next foster son with the words: "He is a biter." What an insult to sum up someone's identity in those four words!

That toddler was made in the image of God, with his own history and sorrows, his own personality, strengths, and challenges. In the nine months that he was part of our family, he never bit anyone in our home, and the only tears he brought were when it was time for him to move on to his "forever family".

Children in care have often experienced trauma, but they have not usually caused it, and in the right environment, with unconditional love and acceptance, they can work through issues. This can be hugely rewarding for everybody involved.

 

CHRISTIANS are uniquely placed to see the potential in children whom most people would cross the road to avoid. We believe in healing, in second chances, in forgiveness, and in reconciliation. We know what it is like to experience unconditional love, and we are commanded to pass on that grace to others who need it.

Many children in care are labelled "hard-to-place" because of physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or behavioural issues. These are exactly the kind of vulnerable children who most need a loving home. If Christians were to step forward to help them, the authenticity of our faith and the message of our Church would ring out loud and clear.

Dr Krish Kandiah is executive director of Churches in Mission and England for the Evangelical Alliance, and teaches part-time at Regent's Park College, Oxford. He and his wife, Miriam, are foster carers, and have birth children and an adopted child. He is a media champion for BAAF and the Fostering Network. He blogs at http://krishk.com/.

The Home for Good website has information for those considering fostering or adoption, and for churches seeking to support them (www.homeforgood.org.uk).

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