3 Things the Cajun Navy Can Teach Us About Responding to Foster Care

As our attention and prayers have been turned toward the people of Houston this past week in the
wake of Hurricane Harvey, a particular group of citizens have become highly visible in a number
of news stories. The Cajun Navy, made up ordinary people from Louisiana and surrounding states, have mobilized and organized largely through the use of social media and a smartphone “walkie-talkie” app called Zello. This group was first born out Hurricane Katrina and has responded to various storms since. This past week, they have been responsible for the boat rescue of thousands of people stranded in their homes and on their roofs.  The Cajun Navy’s mission statement as posted on their Facebook page says “We the people of Louisiana refuse to stand by and wait for help in the wake of disasters in our State. We rise up and unite and rescue our neighbors!”

While I don’t claim to be an expert on the Cajun Navy, here are three things that we in the church can learn from them when it comes to responding to foster care:

1. When there is a crisis, everyone is needed
We are fortunate to live in a country where our government has enough resources to provide assistance in times of crisis. However, it would be a grave and deadly mistake to expect that government has the capacity and ability to provide all of the help that is needed when things are at their worst.  The Cajun Navy is made up of ordinary people of all walks of life with boats, big and small, who are armed with the conviction that even the most humble of vessels is capable of making a life-or-death difference for another person. In a similar way, we recognize that it is not solely the responsibility of the government to provide all that is needed for kids and families in foster care to thrive. There is a crisis, and we need everyone with a boat (or a friend with a boat) to show up and make a difference for a child in need. Remember, foster parenting and adoption are not the only “boats” that can change a child’s life in foster care. There is mentoring, respite care, advocacy, prayer, family support, coaching and child care. All of these vessels are going to be needed if we are serious about making sure children are not left stranded in the flooding foster care system.

2. We are better together
One of the reasons for the success of the Cajun Navy is the coordination that has occurred through social media and otherwise. One 73-year-old woman who was found floating in the water and was resuscitated by a couple of Cajun Navy rescuers. Another member in a different state then got busy and was able to track down family members and help them to find her. While various organizations and churches who are passionate about foster care can and do make a difference, there are many important ways that much greater impact can be made through collaboration and coordination. We’ve seen it over and over in foster care movements around the country. The help we offer is better and more complete when we work together.

3. Our love for others is a response to being loved
A New York Times article mentioned Ben Theriot, an engineer from Baton Rouge, who got involved with the Cajun Navy after his Baton Rouge home was flooded last year. “I had people that I barely knew showing up to help me. The best way you can thank somebody for helping you is to go help somebody else.”

As followers of Christ we have been loved extravagantly. We were not left stranded and as a result we carry the love we’ve been given into an intensely hurting world. We are compelled by God’s love for us to love children who have been abused and neglected. We love because He first loved us (I John 4:19).

Foster care is one of the most accessible and practical ways we have in our society to love our neighbor. If we simply tell ourselves that bigger boats will handle the crisis, kids will suffer longer than they have to.  So instead, we see it as our calling to hitch up our humble boat and trailer and go serve where we are needed.  No matter who you are, you have a role to play.

To learn more about how your unique gifts, personality and experiences fit into helping kids and families in foster care, download our free guide, Finding Your Fit in Foster Care.

This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We 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 .