Spring Harvest 2014: Home for Good Reception

Spring Harvest 2014

This evening I went along to the Home for Good reception:

Claire and Alan had wondered about adoption before marriage.  Seven years ago made enquiries, five years ago 14 month old joined their family.  Having great fun with her, learning lots, especially around her additional needs.  Also involved in the Home for Good initiative from when that began.  Started fostering in the last two years in the Milton Keynes locality.

 

6000 children in the UK waiting for adoption.  Part of the issue is the spread of children and how that varies across Local Authorities.

 

A conversation with Evangelical Alliance, Care for the Family and CCPAS which created Home for Good looking at how individuals and churches can get involved with adoption and fostering.  At the heart is a desire to see how we respond to the most vulnerable in society, caring for those in our care system.

 

One of the key stories is how this has been picked up in Southampton, where groups of churches responded to the needs of the Local Authority due to the budget cuts.  From the Children Service provision there was a real need for 80 families to be involved in foster care.  The churches made a commitment to find 40 families for Southampton City Council, using Psalm 68: God finds homes for the lonely.  Within 6 months they had signed up 46 families, now 63 families.  Now replicating in Reading, Suffolk and other places.

 

Faith Literacy: CCPAS working on how to help social workers to have a better understanding of the faith community and how they can connect with them and vice versa.

Joint Campaigns: very much Evangelical Alliances input and we have great resources from that.

Adoption Sunday: Krish has worked with BAF, and is one of their Media Champions, and they run the National Adoption Week, linked to this in 2013 we had over 200 churches involved in Adoption Sunday.

Information Events: especially at different conferences and gatherings, people like Spring Harvest have been very supportive.  Over the last two years, across a whole range of supporters, connected with over 25,000 people encouraging people to get involved.

 

Keswick ran the session following the main meeting in the Big Tent so in effect it was anyone who isn’t interested in helping vulnerable children can leave now!  Always a way to attract listeners.  When you adopt or foster in the Charter’s church you get two weeks of meals in the same way as when you have a baby.  It is engaging more people across the church in the movement.

 

Have a number of Home for Good Champions who share their experience with others to help inspire people around adoption and fostering.  Barbara, from Scotland, has two adoptive children, Volunteer Regional Support Co-ordinator for Scotland, working for Care for the Family who co-ordinate the support of adopting and fostering parents.  In Scotland much of the networking is done via Facebook and Skype; recently spoke to 300 Church of Scotland Ministers about the campaigns.  Nobody had ever brought the families before.

 

We were introduced to someone who was born to an abused mother, by a church elder.  They were privately adopted by a church family who adopted them.  Next they were adopted by a Christian family who now wouldn’t be allowed to adopt.  That’s why the rules and checks are there.  Really love and appreciate their adopted mum, but especially as they said their birth mum loved them and didn’t want to give them up which gave them so much help and confidence in their placing in God’s family.

 

It comes down to how we provide a home for the children, bringing hope for each child, and we can find ourselves as part of the story.  It is a real privilege to share that journey with any and every child.  It is good for the church in how we serve and how we grow, for the reputation of the church, the Southampton example.  It is good for the nation – the numbers of children in care that we want to see change.

 

Tim & Melissa adopted two sibling children, four years ago.  Currently started fostering a few months ago.  Started an adopted families support group a few years ago which has grown and been a real help in return.  Christmas 2013 had 30 children including both birth, adoptive and fostering children.  Based in Ipswich and now linking with other churches in Ipswich and Suffolk.  The Suffolk Council has been positive about faith adopters, and are connecting with more potential adopters, sponsoring a Home for Good event to use publicity through the faith community.

 

Next Steps

Began as a conversation, now in a preparatory phase to build Home for Good as an organisation in its own good as coming out of the Evangelical Alliance.  Tearfund was birthed in a similar way so there is a proven track record of this.  Looking to look at how they could work with some approved agencies – PACT based in Reading, and Adoption Matters North West.

 

In Southwark and Lambeth the conversation led to the Councils funding an outreach role to connect between Councils and Churches which may provide a model for other local authorities to follow.

 

Young people to be funded to remain in foster care until age 21 if they wish

Education minister Edward Timpson

Children and young people brought up by foster carers in England will be allowed to remain with families until they are 21 if they choose to under a new legal duty for councils – this is brilliant news – it was always crazy to force young people to live on their own at 18 by withdrawing their funding:

Children and young people brought up by foster carers in England will be allowed to remain with families until they are 21 if they choose to under a new legal duty for councils, ministers will announce on Wednesday.

Charities have long argued for a change in the law, which currently forces many young people to live on their own at 18. The government has set aside £40m for local authorities over the next three years to put support arrangements in place.

The decision marks a U-turn for ministers, who had previously resisted calls to expand Labour’s pilot Staying Put programme – a scheme that gives young people the option to stay with foster families until they are 21.

The Labour scheme had been piloted in 11 English local authorities since 2008 and evaluations showed that young people who stayed on with foster carers were twice as likely to be in full time education at 19 as those who did not.

Education minister Edward Timpson, whose own mother fostered 90 children, said: “I know from the many foster children I grew up with how crucial it is for them to be given sufficient time to prepare for life after care.  A growing number of local authorities already offer young people the choice to stay, but with little financial support it can be challenging for their foster families. This is a further reform to our much wider package of support for care leavers, including much greater financial support for young people leaving care at 18.”

The government will now put forward an amendment at the third reading of the children and families bill in January.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, which campaigned on the issue, said: “This change in the law will make a massive difference to the lives of this and future generations of care leavers in England. This issue has, however, not been resolved for young people in Wales and Scotland. We will continue to campaign for this change in the law to be replicated”.

Currently, local authorities in England fund the cost of children in foster care until they reach 18. At that point, support varies across the country. In many areas, teenagers are forced to live by themselves at an age when others would remain at home. Statistics from the Department for Education revealed only 10 more young people stayed with their foster carers after the age of 18 in 2012-13 than in 2011-12.

Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, which supports children in care, said: “This represents the most significant reform to the support children in care are given in a generation.  Time and again we hear from young people who are extremely anxious about having to leave their carers when they turn 18 and effectively no longer having somewhere they can call home, especially when the average age for young people who aren’t in care to finally leave home is (at least) 24.”