Many people have ruled themselves out for fostering or adoption when the system would rule them in, explains Krish Kandiah
“I’ve been so encouraged by the number of people who have stepped forward to become foster and adoptive parents. It’s making an impact; the church is being noticed for being on the case and caring for vulnerable children,” says Krish Kandiah.
Krish, one of the invited speakers at Elim’s Leaders Summit in June, is speaking to Direction as he takes up his new role as chair of the government’s Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board, having recently stepped down from the adoption charity he founded eight years ago, Home for Good.
His move comes at a time when lockdown has caused a surge in the number of children entering care, but also a rise in potential carers stepping forward. Krish is excited to be working with the Department of Education to innovate the adoption system and the process for special guardianship – a legal arrangement for foster carers and family members looking to offer children in care a more permanent home.
“I’m working with them to find loving homes for children in need. Government has so much power to influence people and policies to help children get the care they need. There’s a lot of room for change in the system and I’d love to see more children get adopted or be able to live with extended family,” he says.
Two groups of children are particularly in need of adoptive families, he explains, and this will be a focus in his new role.
“I’d love to see more older children being considered for adoption. At the moment, if you’re three or four, you’re considered hard to place. And nobody looks for adopters for children over the age of ten. It seems really desperate that we’re writing off the possibility of a child having a family at ten years old.
“I’m also really motivated to address the fact that black children wait the longest to be adopted and are least likely to be adopted at all. That’s a racial injustice that could easily be fixed if we found enough people to offer loving homes to these children.”
As Krish works with government to achieve these goals, his own experience of adoption and fostering is proving invaluable. “Our family has six children – three birth children, two long-term foster children and an adopted daughter – and we’ve had 32 children live with us over the years.
“Personal experience like this helps when I’m round a table with the Children’s Minister or the Secretary of State for Education because I can speak from experience, which carries a lot of weight.”
Equally influential are children who have been in the care system themselves, and Krish is excited to be getting their voices heard in discussions to shape policy and practice.
“I hosted a global children’s care summit during lockdown and one young woman spoke about growing up in an orphanage in Kenya.
“She told us such orphanages don’t need to exist. She said, ‘I have a mum and dad, and what I needed was support to live with them rather than being taken from them to be cared for in an orphanage.’
“Another girl with care experience from the UK talked about getting dropped off at uni by her social worker and a man with a van when everyone around her was being dropped off and hugged goodbye by their parents.
“Hearing from young people like this makes the work I’m doing very real. They aren’t just statistics, these are real lives, real young people, real children.
“When you give them a voice, it’s exciting to see the room change, to see government leaders shedding a tear or pledging to do better for these kids. That’s one of the real privileges of my job.”
While there is still a huge need for more foster parents and adoptive parents in the UK, Krish is thrilled to have seen many people in their twenties choose adoption as their way of forming a family, even before choosing to try for birth children.
“It caused such a stir that The Guardian wrote an article about these ‘early adopters’,” he says.
Should you be reading this and wondering if adoption or fostering is for you, what makes a great adoptive or foster parent, we wondered.
“A great sense of compassion, love and commitment to the children coming into your care,” Krish replies.
“You can be single, married, have children or have none. There are a whole bunch of people who have ruled themselves out that, actually, the system would rule in.
“The key thing is to go in with your eyes open about the children who are waiting. Some people have a romantic view that they are all tiny, perfect babies, but most are older – two, three or above. They still need a loving family and you could be a brilliant parent to them.”
God sets a fantastic example to show us how to do this, he adds.
“God wasn’t bored or lonely when he adopted us. He said, ‘You need me to step up and be the father you’ve longed for and need, even though your life is not what it ought to be.’
“And when the church steps up, people notice. If we care for the vulnerable children of our nation, people begin to see the gospel, not just in our words but in our actions. That is really exciting!”
From Direction Magazine issue 227.