One rarely expects Bloomberg.com to write much about foster care…or churches. An amazing piece that ran yesterday does both, titled “Make Foster Care Work, Let Churches Lead.”
The article provides a strong synopsis of the challenges facing foster youth in America:
Foster children who reach adulthood with no family connection have a difficult road ahead: By their mid-20s, 80 percent of the young men have been arrested, and almost 70 percent of the women are on public assistance. A 2009 report found that the costs of letting a single year’s cohort age out of foster care without a permanent family were almost $8 billion.
Even better, the article goes on to point to the answer that the CAFO community believes must be the solution: the local church. The article highlights the highly innovative model of church-based engaged designed, tested and refined by CAFO member FaithBridge in Georgia.
The nonprofit FaithBridge was started by Bill Hancock, a director of counseling programs who had lived on the streets as a teenager, and Rick Jackson, an Atlanta businessman who had spent time in the foster-care system.
Hancock wondered why churches weren’t more involved in finding solutions. He said he noticed that in Cobb County, Georgia, there were 1,100 churches and 300 children in foster care. He liked the odds. Plenty of people he knew had an extra bedroom and understood the needs of children. He began to break down the problem.
He would find out the number of children in a particular zip code in need of a foster home, go to a church in the area to present their stories without using their names, and see what happened. He announced at one church that there were 11 kids in his own zip code, representing four sibling groups. Four dozen people showed up at a meeting to volunteer.
Some of them went through the training required and became foster families. The remaining ones formed a support network. Some of those support families offered to shuttle children to and from sports practices or doctors’ appointments. Others offered to watch the kids for an evening or a weekend to give foster parents a break. Each foster family had from 12 to 15 people serving as a support network. Today, FaithBridge also has a “care coordinator” for each child, someone who will help a family navigate the public bureaucracy.
Churchgoers aren’t the only ones who can foster a child but they are easily reached with a direct message. In addition, Jackson says, with an effort such as FaithBridge, foster care needn’t be “all or nothing.” “It used to be at church someone says, ‘We want to talk to you about foster care.’ You say, ‘I have too many children.’ Or ‘I don’t have the time.’ But now you don’t have to be the parent,” Jackson says. “You can be there to support the parents who do volunteer.”
Read the full Bloomberg article HERE, as well as the larger article by author Naomi Schaefer Riley in Philanthropy Magazine titled, “Making Forever Families: Churches and donors lift thousands of children out of the foster-care bureaucracy.”