The care system, the church, and the call to arms

I am lamenting the passing of romance in our house. We have been married 13 years now; so no more need for gushing cards with sentimental thoughts, a dozen red roses, candlelit meals. Plus, we now have two kids in the house, and two cats, so practically speaking, it’s hard to pursue any idea of romance or spontaneity. Don’t get me wrong – love is very much alive and kicking; it’s just that life is busy, and tiring, and romantic gestures tend to drop to the bottom of the list. So I wasn’t expecting a Valentine’s card this year.  Except that I did get one. And it wasn’t from my husband.

 

This is what it looked like:

Hearts

The heart is the usual thing you would see on a Valentine’s card, but look closely at the top. The person in question has drawn four stick people – two smaller people, two slightly taller, one with a big smile. To me it shows a family, our family, united by love. It was given to me by an 11 year old boy – our foster child. The picture has become my reminder of why we do what we do – why an ordinary couple like us would foster children; children that we knew nothing about until that Monday evening a few years ago when they walked into our home, and became part of our lives.

 

According to the Christian charity Home for Good, 35,000 children enter the care system every year in the UK – and they all need a loving, stable family. Imagine the good news story if the UK church committed to finding homes for these children? As champions of Home for Good, we are passionate about this vision. And we have linked up with other Christian foster carers and adopters in Leicester who feel the same.

 

As a group we are now in the process of setting up, what Home for Good calls, a “local movement”, which aims to:

 

  • Raise the profile of adoption and fostering in churches
  • Encourage people to adopt or foster
  • Equip churches to support families that foster and adopt
  • Create support networks for foster carers and adoptive parents

 

We are really excited that by working with other Christians from Leicester churches, including Knighton Free Church, Kingsgate, Holy Trinity and Trinity Life, we will, God-willing, launch “Home for Good Leicester” by early Spring 2017.

 

When I think about fostering and adoption, a hymn that often comes to mind is “O Church Arise”.  These lyrics in particular resonate with my heart:

 

“O Church, arise, and put your armour on; hear the call of Christ our Captain. For now the weak can say that they are strong, in the strength that God has given. With shield of faith and belt of truth, we’ll stand against the devil’s lies. An army bold, whose battle-cry is love, reaching out to those in darkness.”

 

The church is a bold army, reflecting the light of Christ, and reaching out to those living in darkness. The darkness is great: there are children right now in Leicester that are experiencing, or have experienced, significant trauma – through domestic violence, abuse and neglect. These children bear the scars of their experiences, and may take years to recover. Carers often require specialist training, and can feel overwhelmed by the needs and stories of the children they care for. Some suffer from secondary traumatic stress disorder as a result, and placements can break down, meaning children have multiple moves and may never find a permanent home. Nearly half of care leavers are not in education, employment or training. Social workers have very high case loads and the care system is under immense strain.

 

But, through God’s grace, Home for Good, by galvanising the church into action, is bringing hope to families and children across the country and it is a privilege to be a small part of that. So please pray that, even though we are weak, we can do mighty things through the strength that God provides, that we would stand firm in our witness, keep going when we face obstacles, and trust in God always – for us, for the families that we will connect with, and for the children that come into our lives.

 

For more information about Home for Good, please go to www.homeforgood.org.uk. To read stories of fostering and adoption (including our own, and others on our steering group), look at www.homeforgood.org.uk/stories-archive. If you would like to keep in touch with our work in Leicester, and would like to receive regular copies of our newsletter, please email office@knighton.org.uk.

 

Debbie Hill, Home for Good champion and local movement lead