In the 1980’s the carrot industry was struggling. Not only were sales low, but waste was extremely high. Misshapen carrots did not make the cut when it came to joining their perfectly-formed carrot brethren on the grocery store shelves. These unfortunate orange castaways were thrown out before ever making it to the consumer. Carrot farmer, Mike Yurosek, wanted to do something to change that. He began experimenting with turning these wasted carrots into something consumers would want. Armed with a potato peeler at first and moving on to an industrial bean cutter, he began forming large deformed carrots into cute little 2-inch carrot tubes. The rest is history.
In a Washington Times article, Roberto A. Ferdman writes:
“In 1987, the year after Yurosek’s discovery, carrot consumption jumped by almost 30 percent, according to data from the USDA. By 1997, the average American was eating roughly 14 pounds of carrots per year, 117 percent more than a decade earlier. The baby carrot doubled carrot consumption.”
The article also states that today, “baby carrots” account for nearly 70% of carrot sales.
Having encountered many “normal” carrots in the crisper drawer of my family’s refrigerator (which is where they mostly stayed) prior to 1986, I can attest that had it not been for Mr. Yurosek’s visionary leadership, to this day my lifetime consumption of carrots would likely be nearly zero. If what adults always said about carrots being good for your eyesight is true, I suspect I might also not be able to see very well right now.
The simple truth is that the regular carrot is too much carrot for a regular person. It’s overwhelming. It’s just too much to chew.
We’ve treated foster care recruitment like regular carrots for a long time. Everyone knows engaging in foster care is good and healthy. But it’s such a big, intimidating proposition. We so desperately want to find more foster families and more adoptive families that we leave people feeling like they’ve got to make a much bigger commitment than they feel ready for.
So what does it look like to make foster care engagement “bite-sized”? Here are 3 ways:
- Share the smallest numbers you can find, not the biggest
Many people know the big numbers: Over 400,000 kids in foster care and over 100,000 waiting to be adopted. The numbers most people in your church don’t know (and the ones they would find far more compelling) is how many kids there are in foster care in your county or even your zip code. Finding these smaller numbers is a bit more work, but absolutely worth it in terms of their ability to help people feel like their actions will make a significant difference.
- Don’t recruit people to be adoptive or foster parents
Ok, I’ll admit I worded that header to get your attention. I obviously don’t mean to never recruit families for kids but if you are addressing an audience that has not spent much time previously thinking about foster care, you should consider asking them for smaller yet significant commitments like wrap-around support, baby-sitting, court advocacy, and committed prayer. When you lead with these options, it keeps the minds of your audience from shutting down at the suggestion of something they seriously do not feel ready for.
- When it comes to your church, think small
We often find ourselves daydreaming about how big of an impact our churches could make if everyone got on board. Each of us would love for our church to be doing everything from recruitment, bio-family reunification, and adoption education, to mentoring, support groups, wrap-around support, and trauma-based parenting training. However, by helping your church be excellent at one or two things and then partnering with other churches in the area focused on the others, you may find your impact to be bigger and certainly more sustainable.
Taking a big carrot and dividing it up into bite-sized pieces is a fairly simple idea. It’s an idea that led the writer of the Washington Post article mentioned earlier to proclaim that the baby carrot is “one of the simplest and yet most influential innovations in vegetable history.”
By making foster care engagement bite-sized for our congregations and communities, we have the opportunity to encourage growth that can truly change things.
This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We try to keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to help kids and families in foster care. To sign up, go to http://bit.ly/1rwn6eO.