Adoption Options Offer New Foster Care Ministry Channels
Churches can impact children in a special way through a variety of foster care-related ministries like these and others Texas Conference leaders want to develop.
Did you know…that there are countless ways to help children waiting for a forever family – other than fostering or adopting them? “ Churches can do so many things to help meet the need of thousands of children who are in limbo or aging out of the foster care system,” shares Rev. Diane McGehee, director of the TAC Center for Missional Excellence. “Some of our churches are already engaging with these children with a variety of supportive ministries, but we want to expand on these initiatives. Anyone with a passion for helping children might consider joining our think tank to help figure out how the conference can help more young people so that they know that the church cares in very practical and life sustaining ways.”
Most people would be surprised to learn that not all adoptions are expensive. And that a large percentage of foster children who turn 18 and “age out of the system” without being adopted end up homeless, in prison, pregnant or dead. There are many ways to help other than adopt. In fact, only .02% of the six million people in the greater Houston area actually need to adopt to reduce the number of children waiting for a forever family to zero. “Even if members of the church are not in a position to adopt or take on a foster child, there are still many ways to help,” says Rev. Amy Bezecny of the Hope and Healing Center. “Several churches are sharing their stories here as an idea starter and the conference wants to offer training and support for others who might want to join them but are unsure how.”
San Mateo Iglesia, Houston – Relatives as Parents Support Group
Calvary Community Church, Cypress – Empowered To Connect Parenting Classes, Adoption Support Group
St. Peter’s UMC, Katy – Adoption/Foster Care Decisions Class
Servants of Christ, Houston – Weighted Blanket Ministry, Story Project, Hosting Agency Training
An adoptive mother herself, Amy celebrates any ministry that provides much needed information and support. She shares these examples of what some churches are doing to help “Invest in the Young” in a variety of ways:
- BEAR (Be A Resource for CPS Kids) BUMC donates items here for Child Protective Service representatives that need quick access to basics – tooth brushes, books, clothing, for kids who enroute to foster care.
- “Adopt” A Child for Christmas. In Nov/Dec BUMC members sponsor 80 children ages 4 – 17 that would otherwise not get Christmas gifts. Each child has a wish list of 3 gifts they would love to receive. Members sponsor a child, do the shopping, and then take all the gifts up in the BUMC buses, including an age-appropriate Bible for each child.
- The HAY Center (Houston Alumni & Youth). This organization is for anyone who has aged out of foster care, providing help until they reach age 25 via mentoring, job coaching, and sponsoring special events such as holiday parties, Lunch and Learn Programs, life skills training and other independent living events.
- Graduation Event: In May, Bellaire UMC has hosted the Graduation event for all kids who have graduated from high school. The church sponsors 35 of the kids by purchasing some of the basic items they need to start life out on their own: towels, sheets, bedspreads, etc.
- Mentoring Program
- Help with “mock” job interviews”
- Serving on boards
- Providing support to The CPS Shelter on Chimney Rock
Rev. Dottie Dumas has a church that is also passionate about providing beautiful handmade bags for children who need them for their personal belongings. “One of our members is an advocate for children at Child Protective Services,” shares Dotty, “and confirmed the need for these handmade bags the children can use instead of trash bags when they are ushered suddenly out of their homes. Our Helping Hands ministry is using upholstery fabric from a local furniture store to make them durable, and we will include scripture so they know they have worth and Jesus is with them no matter what they are going through.” We are just getting started in this foster care/adoption type ministry and are excited to share God’s love in this way.”
Servants of Christ UMC
Associate Pastor Rev. LyAnna Johnson is soon starting a foster family worship service.
What else can churches do? Here are several more ideas:
- Weighted Blankets-Is there a sewing circle in your church? Weighted Blankets provide therapeutic relief for many foster children challenged with autism, sensory processing and other developmental disorders. However, weighted blankets are expensive and often pose a significant financial burden for foster and adoptive families. Anyone with a sewing machine and a couple of hours to spare, has the opportunity to provide a homemade weighted blanket for a foster or adoptive child.
- Does your church have a Mother's Day Out or Preschool program? Do you offer scholarships? Many foster families struggle to find quality childcare for their children. Could your church provide a safe place for these children while their parents are at work?
- Bus Passes-Many aged out foster children struggle with finding transportation. Bus passes can be a lifesaver. And at only $2.50 each, a little donation goes a long way.
- Furniture-Do you have extra furniture that is still in good, working condition and appropriate for families with children? Your church could respond to this need of foster, adoptive, and kinship families.
- Heart Gallery- Could your church host a Heart Gallery portrait and commit to praying for that child for a month?
- Nominate youth for a GBHEM Scholarship for students aging out of foster care
Call to action: Join Pilot Project or Conference Task Force
To join the Texas Annual Conference Task Force to work on expanding the conference’s ministry to foster care and adoptive children and families, contact the Center for Missional Excellence at firstname.lastname@example.org. Churches that want to join the Pilot Project to help provide a foundation for additional training can contact Rev. Amy Bezecny at email@example.com. Notes Amy, “I currently need 2-3 more pilot congregations to help in the development of the adoption/foster care groups, classes, and event development. I specifically need multi-cultural congregations, and congregations from the southeast and southwest areas of greater Houston.”