one after another they took their place as witnesses in the Ontario hearing room, to tell their story. Some were still in government care, youth for
whom the Ontario government has not found a permanent home. Others appearing that day had recently “aged
out” of the system and were on their own. Across Canada
they number in the tens of thousands.
This crisp December morning was not the usual sort
of legislative hearing. The chair, the researcher and those
who asked questions of the witnesses were
themselves youth who were about to leave
care or who had recently left government
Also around the hearing room table
were invited guests including government
ministers and deputy ministers, provincial
legislators and staff whose work touches
the lives of youth in care.
Most witnesses had been moved from
one foster home or group home to another
(for one it was 16 times) and have felt the
bullying that often takes place in schools
because they are in care.
For these youth their 18th birthday does not entail the
usual celebration – it’s the day they are told to pack their
suitcase and leave. Estimates suggest 30 to 50 per cent will
end up homeless. Those who are able remain in school,
despite the transitions and disappointments. They may
continue to receive some support until they reach 21 –
around the time they are midway through college or university – when they too will be on their own.
As I listened, the story of Jesus telling the disciples not
to turn the children away kept coming to mind. To those
in the hearing room, it looks like our doors are closed and
don’t turn them away
Caring for vulnerable children and youth
is our shared responsibility.
locked, and we are either ignorant of their situation or
Remarkably, the youth speaking were not angry. They
were constructive. The changes they were pleading for
would not benefit them directly, and they knew it. As one
said, they were there for their younger sisters and brothers,
all the other children in government care.
I also found myself thinking, “This is not how I would
treat my kids,” while at the same time affirming that these
are my kids. They are Canada’s kids, our kids.
Who will be there to see them graduate? Where can
they go home for the weekend? To whom can they turn
for advice, to process an event or get a hug? Where will
they wake up on Christmas morning?
Circumstances beyond their control have deprived
them of a family, and the government has
become their legal parent. While this is necessary, it is not and was never intended
to be a permanent plan for any child. The
Children’s Aid Society in Toronto, the first
in Canada, was originally developed to
look after children in need in their communities, not by creating institutions but
by finding permanent homes.
They are not “those kids.” They are our
kids. So we need to pray about what we or
our churches can do. Let’s ask the question
about how our family and church community can connect with our local children’s services agency, how we can engage with children
and youth in government care and their workers. Let’s be
prepared to be enriched as we offer of ourselves to them
– as Jesus did for us all.
For more information about how you can get involved
and how you church can hold an Adoption Sunday, see
the EFC’s ASK IT (Adoption Sunday KIT) website at adop-tionsunday.com. Ft
It looks like
our doors are
closed and locked,
and we are either
Together for influence, impact and identity
The evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of
evangelicals gathered together for influence, impact and identity
in ministry and public witness. Since 1964 the eFC has provided
a national forum for evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical principles in life and society. Visit us at theeFC.ca.
bruCe J. CLemen Ger is president of The evangelical
Fellowship of Canada. read more of his columns