Reprinted with permission from the Nov/Dec issue of Faith Today.
It’s a difficult report to read. Recently released by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the British Columbia representative for children and youth, the report reviews 145 incidents of sexualized violence against 121 children and youth in care in B.C.
These are children in foster or group homes. A disproportionate number are Aboriginal.
According to the report, “No child or youth should ever experience sexual abuse, but such assaults are more egregious when they happen to already vulnerable young people who, for reasons beyond their control, cannot live with their families and whose protection is the responsibility of the government.”
There are laws that specify when a child or youth can be taken from a dangerous family situation into care, but virtually no policies or standards to guide social workers in these cases when a child is facing such danger while in the care of the government.
The report found social workers were limited in their ability to monitor and develop relationships with children and youth because of heavy workloads and inadequate resources.
All this leads to hard questions. Why does our society not allocate the necessary resources to support parenting, prevent family breakdowns or properly care for children in care?
Tragically some of the victims have changed placements up to 30 times. The average was eight. Imagine the impact this has on the development of trust and ongoing relationships.
The value of stable homes is critical, both in physical location and adult relationships, according to the report. Both reduce the vulnerability of children and youth. Our society needs healthy men and women to open their homes.
I saw Christians responding to that need recently in Sudbury, Ont., at a public information event about adoption and fostering. The pastoral couple at the host church are great foster parents, and they joined adoptees and other foster parents to publicly share their stories.
It’s amazing to hear how someone’s journey of faith has been affected by fostering and adoption. It motivates other healthy couples to consider adopting or fostering.
A representative from the local Children’s Aid Society talked about the need for healthy homes, but these have been in short supply since before the first Children’s Aid Society in Canada was founded, as its founder John J. Kelso wrote:
We would like to see every Christian man and woman to see in the person of each homeless child the blessed Master pleading with them for active personal service. You may not be wealthy, but are you so poor that you cannot give affection to a trusting and loving little heart? God will surely bless those who from pure motives seek to serve Him through these children.
Six years ago Faith Today presented on its cover that 30,000 children and youth in Canada are in need of a forever home (www.FaithToday.ca/30000). The number has only increased since then, alongside the need for healthy fostering homes.
As Christians we have been adopted into God’s family through Christ – adoption is a key concept in our faith and a natural expression of it. You likely know someone in your church who has adopted or fostered, not as a rescue, but for the love of God and children, and as an outgrowth of the Holy Spirit’s work within them.
Polls show most Canadians have thought about adopting. The problem is few take the next step.
Through the EFC’s national adoption and fostering initiative, www.AdoptionSunday.com, we are asking churches to take at least one Sunday each year to educate and equip congregations on this issue.
Ask the question about adoption and fostering. Connect with local agencies to explore what God would have you do. And then Engage – although some of us are unable to foster or adopt, certainly each of us can play a role in caring for kids in care.
This can be a transformational moment in our thinking as individuals, families and churches as we respond to the need for loving homes.
Bruce J. Clemenger is president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.