Vision for a caring future
Amid the troubling stories of faith-based fostering and adoption agencies being shut down by unfair sexual orientation laws, there is a possible light on the horizon.
Cornerstone is an independent fostering agency that is working towards registering as a full adoption agency. It will be the UK’s ‘only evangelical agency operating in the country’, according to Robin Singleton, Cornerstone’s chair of trustees.
From fostering to adoption
Some children in local authority care wait years for a family to offer a permanent home, if it happens at all. The problem is most pronounced for so-called ‘hard-to-place’ children who may have severe physical disabilities or behavioural difficulties. They may never find a permanent home, particularly if they are over ten years old, given the preference for families to adopt younger children.
Cornerstone is a Christian charity that wants to do something about this. Founded in 1999, it is registered as a fostering agency and specialises in finding carers who will offer a child a permanent home. Helping children to feel that they belong in a ‘safe place’ within a family enables them to look forward as well as backwards. They can learn in a natural way from adults and prepare for independence.
Cornerstone supports the carers through every stage of the fostering process and also works with the local authorities, who are ultimately responsible for the children. For these services, Cornerstone receives on-going payments for every child that is fostered.
All Cornerstone carers offer a child a ‘permanent home’. However, for many, the best way of securing a ‘forever’ family is adoption. In recognition of this, Cornerstone has long hoped to become an adoption agency as well. In 2011 it decided to apply for registration.
The wheels are in motion, but the final application has not yet been submitted. One of the road blocks is that they need a registered adoption manager. Cornerstone are looking to fill this vacancy. If the application is successful, Cornerstone will need a new model of working. Once a child has been adopted by a family, the local authority stops paying fostering fees. So an adoption agency has to survive on one-off payments related to adoption services, plus the generosity of supporters.
Robin Singleton says: ‘This is a big step for us. But we believe it is the right one and we are appealing for donations to help us set up and run the adoption agency’.1 He adds that the application to become an adoption agency is particularly important because ‘almost all the existing faith-based adoption agencies have been forced to close or to become secular due to recent equality laws’.2
Fortunately, Cornerstone has received official acknowledgement that it can continue working according to its distinctive Christian ethos. Robin and the team are very grateful to the Christian solicitor who helped with the initial charity registration as well as to the Christian Institute for on-going support.
From the start, Cornerstone’s governing documents included an evangelical basis of faith. All its trustees, staff and carers are required to sign its Doctrinal Basis and Code of Conduct. Under that Code, carers are required to have a personal lifestyle, conduct and practice consistent with the Basis.
Robin Singleton says: ‘We want to use the freedom that we have and we want to see Cornerstone expand. It is time for us, as an evangelical Christian agency, to take some bold steps’.3
As well as seeking to become a registered adoption agency, Cornerstone is also looking to increase the number of carers and potential adopters in its present areas of operation in the North East of England.
Further ahead, Cornerstone wants to provide a national helpline service that brings the charity’s expertise within easier reach of carers throughout the country. In addition it wants to replicate its current North East-based operation to other regions of the UK.
All this will take prayer, perseverance and financial support. Robin Singleton is thankful for the amazing progress so far, and is looking forward to more people becoming partners in this ministry of service to children and young people.
‘Children in need of fostering and adoption will benefit so much from a “forever” home with skilled and well-supported carers who allow them to work through their pain and difficulties’, he says. ‘With acceptance of their difficulties, they will feel tremendous security about not facing yet another rejection.’4 Robin Singleton concludes: ‘The Lord Jesus loved the children and so do we’.5
He encourages people to visit http://www.cornerstonenortheast.co.uk for more information and an opportunity to sign up to Cornerstone’s mailing list.
Facts on adoption
The Office of National Statistics says that in 2010 there were 4,472 court orders for adoption in England and Wales. This represents a decline of 12% compared with 2000.
Most adoptions are of children aged between one and four. In 2010 this age group accounted for 58% of all adoptions in England and Wales.
As children become older, they become ever less likely to find a family willing to adopt them. In 2010 children aged 10-14 accounted for 10% of adoptions and young people aged 15-17 accounted for 4% of adoptions.6
1. Cornerstone News, Autumn 2011, page 4
3. Adapted from Robin’s presentation 2, page 3
4. Adapted from http://www.cornerstonenortheast.co.uk/ForeverFamilies.htm
5. Ibid, page 4
6. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-225046 — Table 2b