Every 15 minutes in the UK, a child or teenager will come into care. The reasons why they’re unable to remain with their birth family are vast and varied; every child’s story is unique. But these children need the same things that all children need to thrive. They need stability and consistency, with as little disruption as possible. They need to feel safe, both in their environment and with the people who care for them. They need love and support from a caregiver who they feel they can trust.
But right now, there just aren’t enough people who can care for these children and young people. Right across the UK there’s a significant shortage of foster carers. Nearly a quarter of young people in care are over the age of 16, yet there are limited high-quality options for accommodating these young people in safe, appropriate places. There are children waiting more than 18 months for an adoptive family who can offer them the care they need – this includes children who are over the age of five, children who are Black, children with a disability and children in a sibling group.
The result of this shortage is that children are experiencing multiple moves in short spaces of time because a long-term home can’t be found for them. There are children who are being moved far, far away from everything and everyone they know, because there aren’t any carers in their local area. There are children who have to be separated from their brothers and sisters, because there are no available carers who can look after them together. These outcomes are worlds away from what we know these children and teenagers need. It’s an injustice. Things need to change.
Home for Good exists because we believe that the Church in the UK is brilliantly placed to make a difference. We’re certain that if our church communities were to respond to the needs of children in their own towns and cities, we could transform the landscape of the care system. Imagine the impact the Church could make if more families in our congregations opened their homes to children and young people through fostering, adoption or supported lodgings. Imagine the power of church communities wrapping around them with love, encouragement, prayer and helpful practical support.
Fuelled by this vision, we took to Spring Harvest 2023, both Skegness and Minehead. This was the first festival as partners of Spring Harvest; knowing that many would be hearing about Home for Good for the first time, our hope, really, was to introduce ourselves. Looking back, we’ve measured that half of the connections we made across Skegness and Minehead were with people who had never, ever heard of Home for Good before. Many of these were brief interactions, a quick explanation of what we do and why – a tiny seed planted, with no idea if or when roots will take.
But among these new connections are people like Steve and Paula* who came to find us after our first seminar. They’d never considered opening their home to anyone outside of their biological family before. But something they heard nudged them to find out more, and by the end of the week they were seriously considering beginning their journey towards becoming supported lodgings hosts. We’re already excited to return to the festival next year and to reconnect with those we met this year for the first time.
I think I speak for the whole team when I say that none of us were quite expecting the response we received at Spring Harvest. In hindsight, our simple goal of a good introduction was possibly too small. By the end of the week, we had received over 100 requests from individuals and families who wished to be connected to the Home for Good Enquiry and Family Care team – incredible Home for Good staff members who are dedicated to walking with people on their journey towards fostering, adoption or supported lodgings and beyond. Many of these people will go on to take part in an information session or our Foundations course. Some will enter into a formal assessment process with a local authority or agency near them. Some will eventually go on to welcome a child or teenager into their family. This is huge.
While half of those we met on-site were brand new connections, half of the conversations we had were with people who already knew about the work of Home for Good. And among these were some of the most special encounters.
I crouched at the table beside tubs of toy bricks with one family as Angela* explained to her children, “This charity is really special – they find homes for children who need a family to look after them. A few years ago, we did a course on our computers with this lady, and a little while later, you and your brother came to join our family.”
I approached Leo* while his children were playing, and asked if he’d heard of us before. “Yes, we have,” he replied. “You’re kind of the reason we’re a family.” The two little ones who were building houses beside us were half-siblings by birth, now full siblings through adoption.
While chatting to some adults about our work, a boy of around 10 stopped on his scooter after overhearing what I was saying. “I’m fostered!” he told us, with wide eyes, like he knew his story was something special.
Our working with Spring Harvest feels relatively new, and we are so hopeful and excited at the thought of what’s to come. But what God is doing in the lives of children and families in this country is not something new. God’s heart has eternally been to see the lonely welcomed into families. He has always been a God of compassion and care, always calling His people towards community and hospitality. Our God has been writing stories like these since the beginning, and He will continue to do so; and at Spring Harvest 2023, I was reminded of what an absolute privilege it is to hear, tell and step into these stories of His.
*names changed for anonymity
About the author: Home for Good is a UK charity with a bold vision to find a home for every child who needs one through fostering, adoption and supported lodgings for teenagers. We believe the Church has a crucial role to play. We inspire individuals and families to open their homes to children and young people, and equip local church communities to wrap around families with support.