Cornerstone blazing a trail
Cornerstone, an evangelical fostering agency, is blazing a trail in placing children with foster families who hold biblical Christian beliefs. In contrast to high-profile closures of faith-based adoption agencies, Cornerstone is actively seeking to expand its activities with the help of committed evangelical Christians.
Back in 2008, the outlook for any faith-based fostering and adoption agency seemed bleak. The Labour government introduced the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR) which outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, including in the provision of fostering and adoption services.
Most Roman Catholic adoption agencies, faced with the prospect of being unable to avoid involvement in homosexual adoption, closed or cut their ties with the Roman Catholic Church. In 2008 there were 13 of these agencies in England and Wales; in 2011 only one remains in the same form.
High quality care
Cornerstone is in a totally different situation. Its explicit purpose is to provide a ‘high quality adoption and fostering child care service according to Christian principles’. In order to further this purpose, Cornerstone requires carers to sign its doctrinal basis and have a lifestyle consistent with its code of conduct.
Cornerstone has had confirmation from the Charity Commission that it is operating within the law.
In early 2011 Cornerstone’s trustees took an important decision to try to broaden the charity’s scope of activities. In future, it not only wants to be a fostering agency but also to apply to become a registered adoption agency. This will allow it to do even more in providing ‘forever’ homes to children in need.
Cornerstone particularly wants to serve so-called ‘hard-to-place’ children. Jean Hasnip, General Manager at Cornerstone, gives the example of how Cornerstone arranged long term foster care for Child D and her brother, Child J (real names cannot be used). Both had significant learning disabilities and J had physical disabilities, to the extent that no foster carers had been found to take them as a sibling pair.
Jean Hasnip says, ‘When we rang social services to say that we had a family who wanted to foster both D and J, the social worker couldn’t believe it.
‘She didn’t think that anyone would want to take two children with the problems and disabilities they had. She actually cried on the phone when we said that our foster family knew all about their disabilities and wanted to care for them anyway’.
Child D was aged five at the time and had been through four foster homes in four years. She was angry and frustrated inside and could be very disruptive. It took years before D reached the state where she could accept the love that was being offered. When she did, she finally began to change.
Jean continues: ‘She’s grown up into a young lady who is so loving, so caring and so compassionate. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer young lady. The difference in her life is that she’s experienced the love that her foster carers have offered so unselfishly’.
Both children have now been adopted by their Cornerstone carers. Of course, it has not always been easy for D’s and J’s carers. According to Jean, every carer linked to Cornerstone feels that, at low points, they would give up the hard task, if it wasn’t for the sustaining strength that comes from their faith.
Over many years, the team at Cornerstone have developed great expertise in supporting carers during all their difficulties and joys. Jean’s hope is that the team will be able to expand this level of support. Future plans include a national help line for all foster carers who would like to access advice, encouragement and prayer.
Another plan is to extend Cornerstone’s work into new locations. It is currently active in its heartland of North East England and Yorkshire. Jean sees great needs in other parts of the UK, adding that in her opinion Cornerstone ‘is the only evangelical agency in the country’.
These plans rely on the support of Christians who support the vision and want to do more for children in need of ‘forever’ families. More details from www.cornerstonenortheast.co.uk