A response to the Catholic Church's apology

Looking at some of the changes in adoption over recent decades and remembering the pain behind every adoption story.

We hope that these thoughts will enable you to helpfully, and sensitively, draw a distinction between the heart-breaking stories we’ve heard, and the urgent need for more adopters today – which is also heart-breaking.

 We welcome the apology made by the Catholic church of England and Wales this week. As I listened to the stories of how so many young women had been treated and how they were forced to relinquish their babies, I was saddened and angered.

 We are pleased that adoption in the UK has changed significantly over the last few decades. The decision made by the state to place a child for adoption isn’t taken lightly and is made only when adoption is believed to be in the best interests of the child. There is a thorough process, with many safeguards in place, to ensure all the options are explored. But we believe more needs to be done to support families whose children are taken into care.

 In contrast to the 16,000 babies born to unmarried mothers in 1968 who were placed for adoption, last year 2,940 looked after children were placed for adoption (4 % of children in the looked after system). More than 60% of these children had experienced neglect. Many of these children were over four years old, part of sibling groups, from minority ethnic backgrounds or had additional needs. It’s children like these who wait the longest to be adopted and it’s for these children that Home for Good exists.

 Jan Fishwick, CEO of PACT – one of the adoption agencies that make up Home for Good’s ‘Pathway to Adoption’ says, “In welcoming this apology, we must also be mindful of the significant progress made in national care legislation that requires statutory multi-agency checks and balances to be in place before a child is removed from his or her birth parents. Adoption, as the best permanence option for any child in this sad and desperate situation, remains an important governmental activity today requiring more ordinary people to step forward and become extraordinary adopters.”

We must not forget the pain that still accompanies adoption today. The pain carried by many children being placed for adoption as a result of their turbulent past. The pain of birth families of having a child removed – not just of parents, but also the pain of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other members of the extended family.

As churches across the UK hear about the 35,000 children who enter the care system each year, we need to remember that although each of these 35,000 stories are different, all of them are painful. Each story contains painful decisions that carry the weight of hurt, disappointment and loss. For the child, for the birth family, for the social workers, for the courts, for the carers. There are no easy adoption decisions. But let’s not forget the children who are able to return home or are cared for by their extended family.

Adoption Sunday is a day to stand with and show our support of those in our communities who open their hearts and their homes to provide permanence, love, safety, and nurture to vulnerable children. Adoption Sunday is also an opportunity for Christians to celebrate our adoption into God’s family, and it’s a day to pray for and remember the complexities, needs, and hurts faced by every child, family and professional involved in the care system today.

Churches are not involved in decisions regarding whether a child should be placed for adoption, but we believe they do have an important role to play in responding to the need that currently exists – to find homes for children waiting the longest for adoption. As many in society focus on the Church’s negative association with adoption in the past, let’s ensure the future is positive; a community of people who provide loving and safe homes for society’s most vulnerable children.

Romans 12:15 tells us, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’ The body of Christ is called to celebrate with people who are celebrating and to cry with people who are crying. For those involved in the story of any adoption, these emotions and expressions are held in tension; rejoicing that the child is being welcomed into a loving home where they are chosen and can belong, celebrating the addition to the family, whilst at the same time knowing the pain of their background, the possible grief of the birth family, the long-lasting implications for the child and birth family in no longer being together.

 There are approximately 4,000 children who are waiting for adoption. Children over four years old, sibling groups, children from ethnic minority backgrounds and children with disabilities wait longer. We believe that Christians can make a difference in the lives of these children who are waiting by considering adopting.

 There are social workers who are faced with painfully difficult decisions about the welfare of children every day. Could you thank them for the work they do and could you pray for them?

 There are almost certainly birth families in your community who are struggling to care for their children and need support. Could you offer them support? There may be families in your community who have had their children taken into care. Could you offer them support?

 There are kinship carers – often grandparents – who care for children who can’t be cared for by their mum or dad. They keep children safe while supporting complex family dynamics. Could you offer them support?

 There are foster carers who are caring for children for a few days, months or years, while decisions are made about the child’s future. And there are foster carers who provide long-term care for children, often enabling children to maintain positive links to their birth families. Could you offer them support?

Author:
Phil Green


Date published:
November 2016


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