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Opinion

Krish Kandiah speaks of need for Christians to foster as care system reaches 'crisis' point

by Heather Preston
Opinion

The care system is said to have reached a 'crisis' point as the number of children being looked after hits a 10-year high.

According to figures from the Local Government Association, there has been a 28 percent increase over the past decade.

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield is urging the Government to launch an independent review.

Premier Christian Radio (PCR) caught up with the founding director of Christian fostering charity Home for Good, Krish Kandiah (KK) to find out how the Christian community can help.

PCR: Were you surprised by these figures?

KK: No, not at all, we've known for a long time that the number of children in care is rising and there are a whole number of contributing factors to that. There is basically a crisis in the care system right now.

PCR: What factors lead children into the care system?

KK: There are three big factors that are influencing this: one is austerity, there's less support for vulnerable families who are at risk of having their children removed from them. Because that support isn't there, more children are coming into care. Secondly, sadly, 70% of the children in the care system have experienced neglect, abuse and violence against them and that seems to be increasing. And thirdly, less children are leaving care, so they're not getting adopted or reunified with their families. They're staying in care longer and therefore the numbers are increasing.

PCR: The Local Government Association has warned councils are under increasing pressure as a result of the growing number of children in the care system. How can the church help to tackle this issue?

KK: The most powerful change Christians can make in this space is there is a massive shortage of foster carers and adoptive parents right now in the system. If Christians will come forward and start living out a really clear calling in our faith to 'care for widows and orphans', as it says in James 1:27, that will make the biggest difference. Home for Good exists to help people who are thinking about fostering and adoption actually become those kinds of carers. Right across the UK, we've got routes for Christians to be the carers that our nation needs and our nation's children need right now.

PCR: Why do you think there is a shortage of carers for these children?

KK: We've got a double problem. One is this increasing number of children. Second, is there's a lot of social stigma around foster care. When you watch a movie, like Annie or Despicable Me, foster carers are perceived to be money grabbing people who don't care about children, they just care about money. We want to demonstrate as Christians that that's not our motivation, we are in it because God calls us to care for the most vulnerable people and we're going to do whatever it takes, we're going to welcome children who've had some of the most awful experiences you could imagine. We're going to welcome them into our homes, into our churches and love them with the grace of God. And therefore this is a very practical way that Christians can change the whole climate of the care system right now.


PCR: How important do you think it is for Christians in particular, to be involved in the care system and share the ethos of the church with them?


KK: It's interesting when Jesus tells his people what the marks are that you belong to the kingdom of God. In Matthew 25, he says, 'I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me in' and that sounds like the benchmark of whether you're a Christian or not is how you respond to vulnerable people. So caring for vulnerable children is not a weird pursuit for a certain type of Christian. It's actually one of the ways we demonstrate we belong to Jesus at all. So this is a high priority for anyone who claims to be a Christian. Now, not all of us are called to care for vulnerable children. Some will care for the elderly, others will care for people who are international distress, for others it could just be care for neighbours, but all of us have a calling on us as Christians to care for vulnerable people. It's one of the badges that we belong to Jesus.


PCR: The Children's Commissioner has called for an independent review. Do you think the Government needs to be taking further action to address this 'crisis' issue?

KK: We're very blessed to have a really good relationship with our Government on exactly this issue. I know that they are taking action on it, but any pressure that we can give them as members of the public to pursue that with a passion I would celebrate. It is a necessary priority right now. And pray for Home for Good because we've been blessed to be able to speak to ministers about this, civil servants about this and there is a willingness there, and we just need to help them make that step.
 

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