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27 August 2015

Finding a Home for Good

Finding a Home for Good

On 1 September 2014, Home for Good launched as a charity in its own right, after beginning life as an initiative of the Evangelical Alliance, Care for the Family, and the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service. One year on we caught up with Home for Good's chief executive, Phil Green, to find out what's been going on.

What is Home for Good's vision?
We want to find a home for every child that needs one. There are 4,000 children in the UK who are waiting to be adopted, and an urgent need to find 9,000 more foster families. We believe that this is a need that the UK Church can meet. However, it's not just about finding homes for children. It is about ensuring that families that foster and adopt receive the support they need. We also believe churches are ideally placed to do this. 

What have been the highlights of Home for Good's first year?
It's been a phenomenal year. More than 300 adults who are passionate about fostering and adoption gathered for our first annual summit, and really launched us as a new charity. I'll never forget one man coming up to me, with tears in his eyes, saying: "I've been waiting for this event for two decades."

More than 300 churches took part in Adoption Sunday in November, with more than 200 people attending information evenings in the weeks that followed. What was really exciting for us, as a charity that is wanting to 'normalise' the idea of fostering and adoption within the Church, was that 50 per cent of the people who came to these evenings were in their 20s, and they were saying that although they were unlikely to foster or adopt in the next few years, they wanted to place the possibility of fostering or adoption alongside birth children when thinking about their family planning.

We were featured on the Mother's Day edition of Songs of Praise, 200 people came to our theology of adoption conference that included talks from leading theologians, and hundreds of people have contacted us to ask questions as they think about fostering or adoption. There are now a dozen local expressions of Home for Good taking shape around England, and we have a steady stream of local authorities contacting us, wanting us to help them connect with churches in their area.

I could go on! But my number one highlight is that not a week goes by without us hearing a story of someone who has fostered or adopted as a result of being inspired or helped by Home for Good, or a story of how a church is wrapping around and supporting someone who has fostered or adopted. As a small start-up charity, our vision is massive. But hearing these stories every week make me realise – this is a vision that the Church in the UK can make a reality.

You speak a lot about churches wrapping around and support families that foster and adopt. What does that look like in practice?
I was at a meeting a couple of months ago and someone shared that from September, in Chester, there's going to be a church-run café that foster carers can go to – and while they drink a cup of coffee, someone in a backroom will do all their ironing for them. That's a great example of a church 'getting it'. It begins with making families that foster and adopt feel welcome and the church adapting to cater for whatever their needs may be. This will vary from one situation to another, but we'd encourage all churches to talk with people in their church who foster or have adopted, and find out how church could be made to be more welcoming and what support they need. We've heard stories of churches setting up groups so adoptive parents can meet together and pray for one another, annual parties for families that foster, organising meal rotas, providing lifts, using more inclusive language during services, changing the way the Sundayschool works, and many more.

There's a church in Bolton that set up a bi-monthly session for foster carers and adoptive families in the church. They have a shared lunch, and while the carers and parents chat over coffee, sharing experiences, the children have fun activities organised by the church's children's team. The group has become so popular they now have to keep it a secret, because whenever a foster carer or adoptive parent in the whole region hears about it, they want to come! 

There has been a lot in the news recently about how there are now more adopters waiting than children waiting for adoption. That must be good news, right?
Sadly, not really. In England, there are just under 3,000 children waiting for adoption, while there are 3,130 approved adopted. The problem is two-fold; First, there is often a geographic mis-match between the location of adopters and the children waiting, and secondly, and more significantly, the majority of those approved adopters are wanting to adopt a baby, or toddler, without complications. That's just not the reality of the children who are waiting for adoption are primarily over the age of four, are part of a sibling group, have additional needs and are often black or minority ethnic. 

Home for Good's aim is to find families who are willing to adopt the children that wait the longest, and that's why we have launched our pathway to adoption, working with five excellent adoption agencies. Wepiloted it during the first half of the yearwith two agencies, finding six families. TheDepartment for Education were impressed,and have provided funding to enable us to expand the programme. The three standout qualities of our pathway are, (1) we are training social workers so they understand the Christian faith and treat faith well during the assessment process, (2) it's not limited by geography, so the right match for children can be found anywhere in the country, (3) the agencies offer post-adoption support for life, not just a few years.

What are your plans for the year ahead?
They're big. We are currently on a big fundraising push because we have so many plans that we want to make a reality. Working with our fantastic network of volunteers, we want to develop our work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We are planning to produce training courses and resources for youth workers, Sunday school teachers and small group leaders, to equip the churches to be a great place for looked after children. We want to see Home for Good established in more towns and cities throughout the UK. We want to see hundreds more people step up to foster or adopt, and we want to see thousands of people stand with and support those families that do decide to foster or adopt. 

And what is the most important lesson you've learnt during your first year as a cCEO?
Since we launched in September, the Home for Good staff team has doubled in size and my learning curve has probably been steeper than our growth curve. Number one lesson, though, has been not to try and make yourself look good – surround yourself with great people who are way more talented than you! God has blessed Home for Good with a fantastic group of gifted and passionate people – both on the staff team, but also throughout the vast network of people in the UK who are passionate about putting fostering and adoption on the Church's agenda.

For more about Home for Good.

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