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13 March 2015

Missing mothers

Missing mothers

I find Mothering Sunday hard. Five years after she died of ovarian cancer, I’m not ashamed to say I miss my mother. I am 43 years old and I can’t begin to recount the debt I owe my mum. Perhaps the simple fact that I can’t delete her number from my phone will resound with those of you in a similar position.  

I also find Mother's Day hard because on Sunday morning I wake up with four or more children desperate to shower my wife and/or their birth mothers with homemade cards and trinkets. I am torn between enabling the expressions of gratitude, and not making our fostered children feel any more pain than they are already dealing with. And then I also feel this overwhelming concern for the other 68,000 children in care in the UK. They too are probably going to find Mother’s Day pretty hard. 

Removed or relinquished from their birth mother’s care, living in foster care, children's homes or with kinship carers, 62 per cent of them will have experienced neglect or abuse at home. All of them will be reeling with the question of whether or not they are loved and wanted, and what will happen to them.  

Children in care have been in the news so often that it almost doesn’t feel like news anymore. In the last week alone I have read a report about how Ofsted found child social care inadequate or requiring improvement in three quarters of the English local authorities it inspected last year, with services under "intense pressure". I also read that in Oxford it was disclosed that a child paedophile ring that centered on the systematic and vicious sexual abuse of six girls in care may have affected another 367 children. Margaret Hodge MP chaired a parliamentary group that declared that children in care are getting a raw deal and specifically criticised the department of education for showing an "alarming reluctance to play an active role" in improving the lot of these children.  

Perhaps these types of headlines occur so frequently that they no longer shock us. Perhaps the appalling challenges faced by so many young people across the nation are so common that they no longer appal us.  

A friend of mine who posted our Mother's Day Home for Good video on social media sparked an emotional debate. One outraged commentator was irate that Christians were being encouraged to think about the situation of “motherless children” on such a historical festival - as the fourth Sunday in Lent was originally set apart for remembering people returning to their mother church. 

The origins of Mothering Sunday do seem to go back to the 16th century, where apparently it was customary for worshippers to go back to the main church or cathedral for a special service. But the biblical precedent set by Isaiah 1 and James 1:27 predate the 16th century. They also trump Mothering Sunday and, indeed, observance of every other festival the Church may choose to celebrate: God is clear about the kind of worship he desires: “True religion that God our father accepts as pure and blameless is to care for widows and orphans in their distress.” 

The video may well touch a raw nerve - not only for Christians who would prefer to celebrate in a traditional manner - but for families who have been or who are at breaking point, for women and children whose lives did not go in the direction they expected. Our church is filled with these people, and we should be asking how we can both celebrate the gift of motherhood and mothers.  

So let’s spare a thought and a prayer for children waiting for mothers, and mothers waiting for children. 

Krish Kandiah is the founder and director of Home for Good. 

Learn more about Home for Good on BBC1’s Song of Praise this Sunday, 15 March at 5pm.