At the end of January, hundreds of pastors gathered together at the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Pastors Luncheon, with the focus of Uniting to End the Foster Crisis. There are far-reaching consequences of the current shortage of foster parents and lack of support for biological parents facing separation from their children, and the church has the potential to bring an end to this crisis.
Numerous sponsors and speakers came together to put on this event and connect pastors with resources for their churches. Speakers included Ginger Pryor, Chief Deputy Director of DCFS, Bishop Ed Smith, the founder of the Nehemiah Project LA, and Andy Byrd, a foster and adoptive father. There was also a panel consisting of a foster mom who has cared for over 1,000 children, a biological father recently reunited with his daughter after she had been placed in foster care, and a woman who had recently aged out of the foster care system. Below you’ll find some of the most important takeaways from the event that can help your church understand the crisis and the many ways people can help.
It’s a Root Issue
The church invests so much time, energy, and care into helping address some of the biggest social issues of our time. Churches around the LA area are actively involved in helping people who are homeless, imprisoned, or victims of sex trafficking. What many may not realize, however, is that foster care has been identified as a primary risk factor for all of these issues.
Recent research has estimated that over 75% of people currently imprisoned, 50% of people who are homeless, and 80% of people who are victims of sex trafficking spent time in the foster care system. Instead of focusing only on restoration later in life, making safe spaces for kids in foster care would drastically reduce the amount of people who end up imprisoned, homeless, or trafficked. Of course, this is not just about statistics, but the transformational power that a safe home can offer each and every child.
Care for the Child and Biological Parents
One of the panelists at the event was a biological father whose daughter had been placed in foster care while he was dealing with difficult personal issues. While he was extremely grateful for the care his daughter received during that time, he expressed how much harder the healing process was for him because so many people, including his own church community, didn’t extend care for his brokenness, too.
Many people don’t realize that the goal of foster care is reunification with the biological parent(s) if possible, and only adoption if necessary. As Christians, that sentiment should deeply resonate with us as we acknowledge that God’s desire for the world is reconciliation and wholeness. Bearing the same intention, we should engage fostering as an opportunity to care not just for a displaced child, but for the healing of the biological parent(s), hoping that they can be reunited and made whole.
What Can the Church Do?
There is such good news for the foster crisis, and that is that the church can truly make a tangible impact. Not everyone is able to open their home as a foster parent, but if only 10% of churchgoers did, there would be a home for every foster child that needs one. The rest of the church can still play a vital role.
Churches can help in donating resources for foster and biological families. They can help make sure foster children have access to things like counseling and job skill training, and be intentional to make sure they feel welcomed in the church community. They can be a place of safety and support to biological parents that are separated from their children, both for emotional care and helping them work on the issues that led to the separation. There is a way that every single person can help, and when we do, we not only drastically impact that child, but help to address a far-reaching social crisis. See the resources below to explore how you can get started.
Resources to Start Helping
Donate and Volunteer
CarePortal – This online platform helps children in need get connected to people willing to provide tangible resources, like a crib, clothes, car seat, etc. This service is already helping biological foster families stay intact, preserving foster care placements, helping foster youth as they age out of the system, and so much more.
Royal Family KIDS – Camps and mentoring programs are available for children in the foster care system. Help volunteer or donate to an existing RFK program, or consider starting one in your area.
The Nehemiah Project LA – A group raising awareness and providing resources for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. Help this vulnerable people group today by donating.
Love SCV – Connecting community needs with community resources. Volunteer to help mentor foster youth, or donate to their work.
FamilyTable – Partners with churches and communities to help empower and train people in LA to help end the foster crisis.
Foster and Adoption Resources
Olive Crest – This non-profit organization offers a range of services for potential foster and adoptive families, biological families, and foster children.
Koinonia Family Services – A foster and adoption agency that also offers support and intervention resources.
America’s Christian Credit Union – Loans and grants are available to help with adoption costs.