On the 31st of March last year the current number of children in care in England and Wales stood at 72,775. That’s just over 0.5% of the 0-18 population of these two countries. Additionally 2% of our population has been through the care system at some point in their lives. Compare this to the number of those who have been in care who are currently in prison. This depressing figure sits at 27%, just over a quarter of all prisoners. Even worse, children who have been in care account for 49% of the 11,672 under 21 year olds in contact with the criminal justice system.
It’s a tough life in care and there are plenty of other grim statistics to back this up. Anyone with any sense will know that in order to thrive, a child needs a loving and stable family structure around them and again there is plenty of evidence to support this. Adoption is often the best opportunity for many children without a family and yet whilst the number of children in care is rising, the number of adoptions is stubbornly low. Last year figures showed that of the 3,660 children under the age of one who were in care in England in 2010-11, only 60 were adopted. In the summer David Cameron described it as “shocking” that so many babies taken in to care at one month wait 15 months to be adopted.
The Government at last has signalled its intentions to simplify and speed up the bureaucratic and long-winded adoption process. A statement from the Department for Education said the government wanted “a system which is truly fit for purpose”:
“Adoption can be a lifeline for vulnerable children and we are determined to see more children considered for adoption, particularly those who may previously have been overlooked.
“We are committed to overhauling the entire adoption system to give more vulnerable children the chance of a loving, stable home with adoptive parents.
“That’s why we are changing the law and calling for urgent action – both from local authorities and from potential adopters – to reduce barriers and delay in the adoption process.”
When I have talked to Christians in the past there has been a concern among some that the adoption agencies will look unfavourably upon their beliefs. The court case of the Christian couple Owen and Eunice Johns who were banned from fostering because they would not tell a child a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable, is the sort of example that can frighten some prospective foster and adoptive parents away from the process. It’s a sad state of affairs when potentially excellent parents are driven away from a system that at face value looks complex and intimidating.
I was therefore delighted to hear recently about Adoption Sunday, taking place this weekend on November the 4th. It’s being spearheaded by the Evangelical Alliance and Care for the Family. This is part of their press release:
Christians wanting to adopt need not fear political correctness
The Bishop of Oxford has urged Christians to focus on the positive things they can do to help the crisis in adoption and not on their worries about how their faith might be used against them in the adoption process.
The Rt Revd John Pritchard was speaking ahead of the first Adoption Sunday, which is being celebrated in churches in Oxford on 4 November as a pilot to a full national launch in 2013.
He said: “Through Adoption Sunday, Christian parents stand to make a life-changing contribution to the many children who are not in a permanent and loving family home. The Church must approach this initiative with confidence but it is currently being held back by a climate of fear founded on the assumption that a Christian’s worldview is somehow not conducive to the wellbeing of a child. If this falsehood continues, it will hold back a common desire by all faiths and none to see thousands of children accepted and brought up in loving family homes.”
His statement follows the findings of a nationwide consultation that showed that many Christians won’t consider adopting and fostering because they fear their beliefs will be used against them during the application process.
However, adoption agencies are reporting the opposite, and say that Christian families are desirable applicants.
David Holmes, chief executive of the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF), said: “We know that Christian parents can make wonderful adopters or foster carers. We are always looking for stable families who can provide high levels of love and care. Christian parents have to go through exactly the same assessment process as everyone else and should be made welcome. BAAF is delighted to support Adoption Sunday – it is fantastic to see such enthusiasm within the Christian community to help find a solution to the current shortage of adoptive and foster families. We desperately need more people who are really motivated to change children’s lives for good.”
Krish Kandiah, executive director: churches in mission for the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Consultations we held across the UK earlier this year showed that both church leaders and churchgoers have a strong desire to help children coming into care find suitable foster families and forever families. We want to help turn that desire into reality by seeing the church culture change to encourage and support foster and adoptive carers. We are delighted to be working in cooperation with local authority and voluntary agencies, to ensure that Adoption Sunday will help the churches to grasp the opportunities and challenges of offering children in care a home for good.”
It is the idea for Adoption Sunday comes from Krish Kandiah, who wants churches to help the 440 children in the region and the 12,000 across the country find permanent homes. I asked Krish to explain how the idea came about. This was his reply:
“The idea for Adoption Sunday came from a recent trip I made to the States where I spent time with the Christian Alliance for Orphans. They had picked the idea up from spending time with Christians in Zambia. So I love the fact that this is a truly global idea.
“Our aim is to learn lessons from our pilot in Oxford that might inform a national campaign towards the church to raise the profile of fostering and adoption as part of the calling of the church to make a difference in our society; to take seriously the Bible’s challenge that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27)
“As a foster father and adoptive Dad I know from personal experience the impact that foster children and adoptive children can have on a family for the good and hopefully vice a versa.
“We will be launching the campaign which will be called “Home for Good” in the Spring of next year, so watch this space.”
Adoption isn’t something that everyone can take on, but for those Christians who feel this may be their calling, we need to see our churches fully behind them. As Krish says, the Church is called to make a difference in this society. There are plenty of children out there crying out for a family to love and care for them and this is a crucial area where the Church should be doing as much as it can to encourage this to happen. Adoption is part of every Christian’s make-up for God ‘predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will’ (Ephesians 1:5). Christians of all people should understand the significance and value of adoption because through it we are made whole.
Do take a look at Krish’s Adoption Sunday video below and if you want to find out more please go to the Evangelical Alliance’s adoption and fostering page.
Can’t see the video? Direct link here