Where are the caregivers?

On 24 September 2015 the Social Development Minister Anne Tolley released an interim report from an independent expert panel which shows that the Child, Youth and Family system is not delivering effectively for vulnerable children and young people in New Zealand.

One of the many concerns highlighted in the report is the urgent need for a wider, higher quality pool of caregivers. Children and young people interviewed by the panel advised that the current system often did not provide them with the nurturing and love they required. They felt that many caregivers were simply providing them with food, shelter and supervision – but they wanted an environment where they could learn, grow and heal. All of them said they craved to be loved, and to belong and be part of a family who would bring out the best in them.

While the report did not explain in detail why the current caregiving pool is so narrow and of such low quality, anecdotally I believe one of the reasons it has narrowed and caregivers don't care and love foster children as they used too, is because Christians who have traditionally put their hand up to adopt and foster children are decreasing in number and now are less inclined to foster. One of the reasons for this, is that mainstream churches have been relatively unsuccessful in bringing Maori into their midst so there is an increasing cultural disconnect between those in the church and the majority of the children who need foster parents, which makes it more difficult for Christians to consider the possibility of fostering.

However, as Mrs Tolley so rightly pointed out, "The whole country has to take ownership of this situation. We cannot say that these children are someone else's problem."This is even truer for Christians, because God has commanded us to protect and care for orphans and widows and I would include in that mix vulnerable, neglected and abused children (Psalm 82:3).

When God gave the Law to Moses and the Israelites, He gave instructions for how to treat the orphans and widows among them—with harsh consequences promised if they failed in their responsibility (see Exodus 22:22–23). In the New Testament, James says that taking care of the needs of orphans and widows is part of religion "pure and faultless" (James 1:27). Caring for those in distress is not optional for followers of Christ.If the Spirit is in us, then the natural outworking of that should be a deep love for the most vulnerable.

However, we should not view caring for orphans and widows as simply a command from God we must fulfill "or else." There is tremendous blessing in practically serving and standing up for those who are at risk. In considering what our own attitude should be towards at risk children, it's helpful to remember that all of us were once orphans, spiritually speaking, but we were adopted into God's family through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3–7). Just as it was God's pleasure to do this for each of us, it is our joy and privilege to partner with God in loving, serving, and protecting the at risk children in our communities.There is no many way of doing this than offering them a loving Christian home.

Can I encourage you all to read the interim report on CYFS, and to ask the question can I do more to help children at risk in our community? Is God calling me to be a caregiver? Personally, I think there is no higher calling than fostering because God has a special place in his heart for children, and those who sacrifice to safeguard and care for them .Let Christians again be a light in our community and country in this area.

We love, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19


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