But what happens next is shocking. Every year, 9,000 young people leave care. Of the adult prison population, 24 per cent were in care as children. A third of homeless people had the same start in life, and 38 per cent of care leavers are not in education, training or employment. At least a third of sex workers – potentially as many as 70 per cent – have been in care.
This is not right, and it’s not fair.
Of course, we should not presume that just because a child is taken into care they will become one of these bleak statistics. Many children who come into care will go onto thrive, and for those, there is often a key factor that will lead to this positive outcome: being placed with a loving family where they find security and acceptance and are able to belong – whether that is in a long-term foster placement or being adopted.
But that’s not always possible in the UK at the moment.
There’s a shortfall of nearly 9,000 foster carers, and 3,000 children are waiting to be adopted – many of whom have been waiting for a long time.
Home for Good is a small charity with a massive vision – a home for every child who needs one. We exist to inspire the Church to make sure looked after children are on the agenda, and to equip churches to welcome and support families that foster and adopt.
Last November, about 200 people joined us for 10 information events for people thinking about fostering and adoption. Amazingly, 50 per cent of those who came were in their 20s. We heard the same thing again and again: “We’re probably not going to foster or adopt in the next couple of years, however, we are considering fostering and adoption as part of our future family planning.”
We set out to change the culture in our churches – to normalise the idea of fostering and adoption – and this was the best evidence yet that it’s beginning to happen.
We have an opportunity here. An opportunity for the Church to do what it is meant to be doing – caring for the most vulnerable, and being good news for children and the rest of society.
Over the past couple of decades, the Church in the UK has done a fantastic job of making a difference in the lives of so many in our community – we run prison ministries, work with people who are homeless and run debt advice centres – and these are all vitally important things we should be doing. But wouldn’t it be good if we also intervened earlier?
Wouldn’t it be good if we could change the trajectory of a child’s life?
Imagine if, in 30 years’ time, statisticians were scratching their heads wondering why there had been such a rapid drop in the prison population – and they traced it back to the fact that during the second decade of the third millennium churches had stepped up and welcomed the most vulnerable and broken children into their midst.
Over the next week, as part of National Adoption Week, we will be filling threads with posts from foster carers, adoptive parents and others who work with children in care. You can read about their highs and lows. We hope this might encourage some of you to consider the possibility of fostering and adoption for yourselves, and we hope it inspires every one of us to be more aware of vulnerable children and wrap around in support of those who foster and adopt.
In his recent trip to the USA, Pope Francis said that “a family is a factory of hope”. Could you be part of creating a hope factory?