Fatherhood and the
Let’s pray and act for Canada’s
Another November arrives, and the estimates haven’t changed. There are still more than 30,000 adoption-ready children and youth in Canada.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month in
Canada, so many of us will hear news stories and commentary on adoption and fostering. Wendy’s restaurants
will have their annual campaign to raise awareness.
We may also hear about youth currently in government
care who are about to age out of the system and no longer
receive any support. Imagine being 18 and completely on
your own – no family, no place to stay and no community there for you. A study of youth living on the streets of
Toronto found 40 per cent came out of government care.
Though they’re not often thought of, it’s also a time to
consider the well-being of birth parents whose children
are in government care. Rarely does a child in Canada
lose both parents to death, and in such cases relatives
or family friends are usually quick to find a nurturing
adoptive home. All the other children and youth in government care have birth parents – they are not dead but are
(or were) in crisis. These parents had to make one of the
most difficult decisions imaginable, or had the decision
made for them.
Some knew they lacked the ability to parent, and made
the tough choice to allow someone else to become their
child’s parent. Others lacked a supportive family or community, or access to the resources to adequately care for
their child. Others still were not parented well, or were
deeply wounded and couldn’t cope. In these tragic circumstances our social agencies may have made a life-changing
decision for them and their children. Whatever the circumstance our first response should be one of compassion. They
are grieving a real loss, and we must ensure our words and
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.
deeds create and affirm an environment of healing.
Compassion extends to using the right language for our
context. For example, to label any child in government
care an “orphan” and “unwanted” is not only hurtful to
birth families, but to women in crisis pregnancies and
children as well. The word is usually misapplied, and its
use grieves birth parents and harms children who know
too well the stigma that comes with being labelled an orphan in Canada.
The Hebrew word translated “orphan” in the Greek
is “fatherless.” The fatherless and the widow represented
those in ancient times who had no protector, no advocate,
no mentor, no one to stand for them. The conjunction
of “fatherless” and “widow” speaks to the importance of
caring for all those who lack protection and provision.
Fatherless applies to many more children in Canada
than just those in government care. How often have we
heard stories of teens making bad choices – and after listening a little longer heard their fathers had been absent from
their lives? Caring for the fatherless and the widow is the
expression of true religion, according to James Chapter 1.
Fatherlessness is much more significant in our society
since orphaned children are so rare. It also focuses the
attention of men on our social priorities. Within our culture things like the economy, finance, trade, business, industry, technology and sports often seem more attractive.
These activities do benefit shareholders, clients and employees, and of course these may include families. Yet rarely
is the well-being of children included in the list. At best it
is seen to be a personal and private matter, not a corporate
and public one. Rarely do I pick up a book on leadership
to see within its pages an appeal for men to father well and
bring their fathering skills to the public square.
In the biblical text the rise and fall of nations isn’t singularly a narrative of military might. How a society treats
and cares for its most vulnerable is repeatedly identified
as a barometer of societal well-being and the strength of
a nation. It is a key factor of how faithfulness to God is
It’s time we raise the bar on today’s Christian leadership model by making children and youth a top priority
at home and in the public square. We need to think afresh
how we can mobilize fathers to ensure they are fathering
well, and for men to consider the fatherless in our midst
and work collectively – and commit personally – to make
a positive difference in the lives of children and youth. FT
bruCE J. CLEmENGEr is president of The Evangelical
Fellowship of Canada. Read more of his columns