Take on social justice in bite-sized chunks
Welcome to the fifth “Monthly Byte” prepared by the Tasmanian Baptist Social Justice Taskforce. Each month there will be a “byte” addressing a critical social justice issue in our society.
In September, our focus is on Out of Home Care (OoHC) – Foster Care and Kinship Care. Mary Dickins, from Fostering Hope, has provided some powerful information including data, some great videos, prayers and some suggested actions.
This month we celebrate National Child Protection and National Foster Carer’s Week, and in between, Stand Sunday. This is a day where we ask the church in Australia to stand with foster and kinship carers and the children in their homes. Why foster and kinship care? – because these families are responding to a huge local need right here in our neighbourhoods. They are opening their homes to vulnerable children and their families to show them love, joy, healing, and hope and changing the trajectory of children’s and generations lives.
Some background: Foster Care and Kinship Care
Throughout the Bible, God calls us to respond to the love He has for us by loving our neighbours and the most vulnerable. He calls us to put the lonely in families, to adopt the orphan, and to be salt and light where He has placed us. The ministry of foster and kinship care is responding to all of these things.
In our own Tasmanian community an increasing number of children are being removed from their families and being placed in care every year. Since 2011 the number of children in Out of Home Care (OOHC) in Tasmania increased from 966 to 1205 at June 30 2017, the second highest rate in Australia. While at the same time more foster and kinship carers are exiting the system. In 2017-18, 1500 caring families ceased being carers and only 1400 commenced.
Christians who open their homes as foster or kinship carers are adopting them into God’s family, introducing them to a heavenly Father, sacrificially each day putting their needs above our own and our families. Christian carers offer hope not just to the child in their home, but also their birth families, social workers, and a broken system. Christian carers are also showing the community, that the church and Christians don’t just talk about caring for the vulnerable, but we get in there and do it and the reason we do is because Jesus loves us, so we love others, we have good news, we have hope and we need to share it.
Foster and kinship care transforms individual children’s lives and their families. It has the potential to change the trajectory of a child and future generations. It can change the face of the church in Australia – Christians used to open their homes to abandoned and orphaned children, but then due to the Stolen Generation, Forced Adoptions and recent Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse of Children – the church stepped out of caring for vulnerable children. Yet – there are more and more vulnerable children needing homes. So rather than stepping away in fear, let’s step in – learning from the mistakes of the past, ensuring our churches are safe, ensuring we honour Government regulations, and we ensure all fostering families have the support and care of their church community.
Here is a sample of short videos for use in services or small groups.
Here is a video about Fostering Hope:
Here is a video about Stand Sunday:
Action: so what can we do?
Love without action is not love at all.1 John 3:18.
Fostering Hope is ultimately trying to find more foster and kinship carers – Christians willing to go through the formal training and open their homes to kids in need of a home. We need fulltime carers and respite carers.
We are also asking the church to wrap around and support carers in their community. Fostering is local mission and just as you would establish a support team around your overseas missionaries, we are asking you to support your foster and kinship families. Foster care is hard, caring for vulnerable and traumatised children is hard, putting their needs above your own is hard, working with birth families is tricky, and working with ‘the system’ is draining. Children are only removed due to messiness, so we are asking people to open their homes and lives to this messiness, so we need churches supporting them. We can equip your church to wrap around a fostering family, to offer trauma-aware children’s and youth programs, and ensure your church is a safe place.
Some Prayers . . .
As Christians, we’ve been adopted into an eternal family through the blood of Jesus. In light of his grace, may we care for the lives of the born, and consider opening our earthly homes for a week, a month, or all our days on earth to the thousands of children in need. And as we do, may we point them, their birth families, social workers, and a watching world to Jesus – the one who welcomes us into his forever home.
Pray for children placed in out of home care in Australia. Praise God for the families who have opened their homes to these children.
Pray that each child living in care will find belonging in their foster family, church and wider community. Pray that each child in care will heal from trauma, make true connections, and dream for their future.
Pray for all foster parents. Fill them with strength, courage and wisdom. Pray that families will find support and understanding from their church community. Pray that our churches are places of healing and extended family for children and young people in care. Pray that the church may raise up and find homes for all young people in care, including those older and more traumatised.
Pray for kinship carers, whether formal or informal, thank you for their boldness and pray they find support, are filled with courage and strength.
Pray for more people to become respite carers to be extended families for children in care and community for foster parents.
Pray for people working in the Department of Communities, and other social workers around each child in care. That they may have wisdom, child-focused, and understanding of all the adults around the child. Pray for decision-makers, that their decisions may be child-focused and filled with wisdom and empathy. Pray for siblings, that they may be able to remain together. That more families could open their homes to larger groups and that churches would support people to do this.
Father, we pray also for those adults who have abused and/or neglected children. We pray firstly that they would confess, repent and seek healing for themselves and that they would also seek forgiveness and reconciliation, as they come to terms with the consequences of their actions. We pray that they would be broken hearted for those that they have harmed and are able to find appropriate ways to reconcile with those they have hurt. We pray that cycles of abuse will be broken. We pray that the local church will become a community rich in mercy in which abusers can find healing, particularly if there has been abuse in their own past.