Tuesday 11 July
Melini Colville is the Northern Ireland leader for the UK Charity “Home for Good” that is seeking to find homes for children in care. At #Sligo17, Melini shared some of their work and vision along with two of the board members from Home for Good NI.
Melini shared: Recently one social worker told us about a sibling group coming into care and not being able to find a home. Each of the siblings had to go to different homes. Imagine being split up from your brothers and sisters?
In Northern Ireland, about 3,00 children are in care at any one time. And they are short of 170 foster carers. In Home for Good, we want to partner with churches to see individuals who will be willing to foster or adopt. We want to make up this shortfall.
Our website has a range of resources and videos to encourage churches to take this challenge seriously - check out www.homeforgood.co.uk
Neil Dawson is the leader of a church Richhill, County Armagh. He shared: It has always been a passion of ours to see how we can call the church to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable.
The idea of the nuclear family is alien to scripture. The idea is not to repair the nuclear but to recreate an extended family out of the rubble of the broken down nuclear family. That is how things should be in God’s extended family (His church). There is no extended family more alive than those who will look after the most vulnerable and most rejected in our communities.
The Lord watches over the stranger and sustains the widow and the orphan. This thread runs right through scripture. In Jeremiah, the Lord says, “If you are going to stand and bear my name, you cannot neglect the orphan, the widow and the stranger.”
In the midst of all the craziness of life and ministry, Jesus still heard the cry of the isolated and rejected. He was moved with compassion. My challenge for my church is - will you be like Jesus?
Chantel Daniels is one of the lead pastors of Carrickfergus Vineyard. She shared: One of my best friends is a respite foster carer. I heard about Home for Good and we went along to an information night in 2015. As a church leader I thought, “This is God’s heart. We are adopted into God’s family. This is right up our street.”
We wanted to find ways to reach out to our community and this seemed perfect - bringing hope to children who need a home. We decided to do “Adoption Sunday” in 2015 and opened up the conversation. That was the first step.
We also opened up our venue to host an information night for anyone interested in fostering. We were a bit disappointed because only nine people came and none of them were from our church but the social workers thought it was amazing. To them nine people was a significant number (sometimes they can run events when nobody turns up).
In Carrickfergus, there is a care home. In partnership with the social workers, we have developed a befriending scheme. People from our church are matched up with residents in care homes. They take them out once a month and build relationship and show them that someone else loves them. So far we have 18 people engaged in the befriending scheme including a lot of our young adults.
Every six weeks I meet with the social worker and from those conversations we have started to dream. In our area there are hundreds of young people who leave the care homes at 16 and go into independent living. We want to find ways to support them. A group from our church will put together hygiene packs. They will run a “cook it” programme for basic cooking and the CAP representative will meet with the young people to talk about budgeting.
Some church leaders might think this is a lot of work. You need to find the people with the passion and heart for it and cheer them on. Give people in your church space to dream about this. If every church found one foster carer, you wouldn’t have the 170 gaps. The social workers would not be scrambling to find people!
Our role at Home for Good is supporting people who are fostering or adopting and encouraging churches to get involved.
The Home for Good book is a really easy read. Each chapter talks about something to do with God’s heart both theologically and from real stories. There is also a helpline for those on a journey towards fostering or adoption.
We provide resources to help churches run an Adoption Sunday on the first Sunday in November. This could be as simple as setting aside five minutes to prayer for children in care, for foster carers and those who are seeking to adopt. Or it could involve the whole service exploring the theme of adoption in the Bible and more. That is a really good opportunity to get that conversation going.
We want people to start opening their hearts and their thoughts about what the needs are in their community. Some churches have support groups for foster carers. We felt very early on that if we are asking people to adopt or foster then they need long-term support.
We have two events coming up in the autumn:
- Northern Ireland Summit on Saturday 23 September in Belfast (check out the website for details)
- Adoption Sunday 5 November