My Mum and Dad took me and my brother to Sunday School when we were kids.
I don’t remember ever not knowing the other kids and the other families at our local church. They have always been part of my life.
As kids, we sang songs.
We coloured in.
We listened to stories.
Some of us had parents in the grown up Church.
Some of us were dropped off by parents who went to play golf or to read the paper.
We learnt about Joseph, David, Goliath, Noah, Esther, Christmas and Easter, and that the answer to most questions was ‘Jesus’.
Some of us lived in the same streets, some of us went to the same schools, and most of us went to the same parties.
As we got older, we went out on our bikes and met at the park.
As we became teenagers we explored alcohol and occasionally snogged each other.
Some of us believed what we were taught and became Christians.
Some of us rejected what we were taught and then rediscovered faith at a later age.
Some of us enjoyed the social side and now have nothing to do with any organised or disorganised religion. We probably just celebrate Christmas and eat an egg at Easter.
Many of us are still friends today.
I’m in a Whattsapp group with people I first met in a Church setting. Our friendships have lasted over 50 years.
Occasionally we meet up, even though we are scattered across the globe.
Our parents are all ageing now and some have passed away, but many of them provided a community of aunts and uncles for me and my pals.
As a child and a teenager, my Auntie Sue and Uncle Alan (no blood relation) always had the kettle on and always offered cake.
Uncle Guy, Auntie Di, Auntie Eva, Tim, Janice, Pete and Anne, and a lovely old bloke called Frank, all played a formative role in our young lives.
Auntie Brenda ran the tuck shop on a Friday night.
Ken and Margaret still offer us wisdom today, even though many of us are the wrong side of 50, and should probably have got life more sorted than we have.
Many of us recently went to the ‘online funeral’ of the vicar we knew as teenagers.
He supported Norwich FC, but was otherwise a kind and generous man.
My mate Mo is the Mullah at the local Mosque. I haven’t made that alliteration up!
He tells me that in his faith the closest you can get to the Prophet is when you look after an orphan.
My mate Krish, who sometimes does Thought for the Day on Radio 4, tells me that in Christianity caring for the orphan is ‘religion that is pleasing to God’.
Schmuli from the Synagogue tells me the Torah is full of encouragement to care for the orphan.
I haven’t made these people up. I genuinely know them all.
I might not have got the wording exactly right, but to the best of my knowledge, the major religions all encourage believers to look after kids who haven’t got a family.
People of faith can be Foster Carers.
Their Holy Books encourage them to invite the disadvantaged into their home and care for them.
Their place of worship can provide a community, and even an extended family for a child who has become separated from their birth family.
All Foster Carers, whether they be of a faith or no faith, need to meet the standards required to become foster carers.
Whilst you may believe in a higher power, you also need to acknowledge and follow regulations.
Whilst Social Workers are not quite as omnipotent as God, some of them do come pretty close.
All Mainstream Foster Carers need to successfully complete a Form F and pass panel.
You need to be prepared to care for any children regardless of culture, creed, colour or any orientation.
Fostered children may be happy to attend a place of worship, explore belief, and reflect on all manner of metaphysical issues.
However, a foster child may have absolutely no interest in faith, and that is their choice.
If Birth Parents have a voice, they may not wish their child to be engaged in any religious practice.
Foster Carers need to respect this.
The children in our care are not ours.
Whatever our motivation to care, and whoever has inspired us to foster, we foster on behalf of the State.