'Justice, Mercy and Kindness - week 2: The Orphan' with Mal Calladine and guests - November 4th 2018

How can Christians be involved with fostering and adoption, either themselves or supporting others? Includes stories about the organisations Home For Good, Home-Start Bristol and Bristol Nightstop.

"This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’" Zechariah 7:9-10 (NIV)

0:00 Introduction

We are in the middle of a series considering four people groups that God has a heart for. The goal is for us to pray with insight, to give generously and to get involved.

This week we consider the orphan, and what it is like to care for those who are neglected or abandoned. Our focus is on fostering and adoption as it is National Adoption Sunday on the day of this talk.

2:42 Home For Good

Home For Good - www.homeforgood.org.uk - is a national organisation currently establishing a presence in the South West. Their video shares some experiences from children who have been fostered or adopted - something which affects 35,000 children each year.

8:34 Anna Simmons on fostering

Anna shared her experience of being a fostering family for 10 years.

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God asked me if, instead of worrying about many children I didn’t even know, would I make a difference to one and change that child’s life for the better?
— Anna Simmons

Anna wondered if she and her family were suited for the role of fostering. She understood from the Bible that she had been adopted into God's family, at home with Him. Psalm 68:4-6 describes God as a father to the fatherless, and Isaiah 1:17 instructs God's family to defend the oppressed and take up the cause of the fatherless. James 1:26-27 defines acceptable religion as looking after widows and orphans in their distress.

I believe that because I have received adoption into the house of the King of Kings, my worshipful response is action.
— Anna Simmons

Anna described a number of children with different backgrounds, ages and characters who have been fostered in their family over the last few years. She also described some of the activities involved, the fun involved, and also the role of the church in welcoming children and supporting the family with prayer and practical help.

16:10 Mal and Chriscelle Calladine's story

Mal described his family's story, deciding to foster or adopt at some point but delaying this until their three children had become adults. Their first fostered child became "forever family", and they have also been fostering a newborn child. Prayer was important in their decision making.

When Jesus says yes, nobody can say no!
— Nigerian gospel song

Matthew 18:5 quotes Jesus as saying, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me," and Mal described experiencing Jesus in the welcome of his foster child.

23:20 The siblings' story

In a video, Anna's children described their experience of life with foster children. They loved having them around, and seeing how their lives could change through fostering. One child could not speak before being fostered, but nine months later left "chirpy and super sassy." The hardest parts have been when childen have left, but there were also difficulties with parents' attention needing to be divided. Despite the difficulties, the children look back on the experience as "absolutely amazing."

It’s really making a difference, but it is just life with another child, just adding someone into your family.
— Leah Simmons

28:29 Laura Harris, Edge of Care Team, Bristol City Council

Laura described the work of a team building relationships with families and supporting them to keep children at home. Each family has different needs. Sometimes children need to be kept away from being exploited, helped through the health service or simply listened to. The job involves building good relationships but also challenging problem behaviours within that relationship. The team runs parenting courses as many people have not experienced positive parenting.

Volunteers are needed for Home-Start - www.homestartbristol.org.uk - befriending and supporting families with a child under 5.

Volunteers are also needed for Nightstop - www.bristolnightstop.org.uk - where people open their homes to receive a 16-24 year old for between one and three nights for bed and breakfast as a safe respite.

34:48 Bristol City Council partnership with Home For Good

There are 685 looked after children in Bristol (as of 31 March 2017) including 40 unaccompanied asylum seeking children, but the number of foster carers in Bristol is falling. Home For Good are helping Bristol City Council to find 30 new foster households in 2018-19. They are looking for help among the faith community, recognising that a church will have a wider community that can "wrap around" somebody in a fostering setting.

Things to pray for:

  • 30 new foster households to be found

  • Bristol City Council

  • The courts as they decide what is best for each child in need of fostering

Severn Vineyard will be running a six-week Home For Good "Foundations" course in January for people considering fostering.

Follow up material and questions for small groups

You could do a more in-depth study on the scriptures referenced on Sunday:

  • Psalm 68: 5-6

  • Isaiah 1: 17

  • James 1: 27

  • Matthew 18: 1-5

We would also recommend watching this video of a carer – from the Home for Good website, “Jon's story” is at https://vimeo.com/265174611 There are a number of other personal stories on there – including by celebrities.

Questions

  1. In your life journey have you had any personal experience of either fostering and adoption, or of Social Services; amongst your own family or friends? Was it overall a positive or negative experience?

  2. How would you describe adoption as a theme in your own faith journey? You could look at Galatians 4: 1-7 & Romans 8: 14-23; & share what verses most jump out for each of you.

You could take some time to pray & intercede:

  • for the carers & social workers involved with the nearly 700 children in care in our city;

  • for the breakthrough needed in the city for foster carers; & the new initiative with the Council & Home for Good to find 30 fostering households amongst the city’s churches.

  • for the family courts as they make judgements for the best future for the children involved – including this week for children in our community’s care.

Finally, what is your personal response to this theme? Are there those you are called to pray for, support & ‘wrap around’ more? What does that look like? What action do you need to take this week to live into this?