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Churches seek to meet state’s foster care needscomment (0)

November 19, 2009

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

In James 1:27, believers are challenged to care for the needs of orphans, and two churches in the Birmingham area are putting their faith into action to make an impact in their communities.

The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, in Birmingham Baptist Association and Gardendale’s First Baptist Church in North Jefferson Baptist Association are taking steps to involve church members in ministry to orphans and children in foster care in their communities and around the world.

For Brook Hills, the process began Sept. 6. As part of a sermon series based on James, Pastor David Platt challenged the church to put James 1:27 into action, noting the estimated 500,000 children in foster care in the United States. Platt said an official with the Department of Human Resources (DHR) in Shelby County told him that the department is “desperate with a capital ‘D’” for foster families, with only 35 for the entire county and a need for 150 more.

“As I listened to this particular lady talk, I wondered why could we not take our county and say, ‘We’re not going to let a child in our county be without a mom or dad for a night, without someone who will care for them and love on them, maybe for a short time or maybe for a long time,’” Platt said in his sermon.

The result of Platt’s challenge is what the church calls The Radical Experiment. At an informational meeting at Brook Hills on Sept. 20, hundreds of individuals and families from the church learned more about the needs of social services agencies in the area, including the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH) and DHR, and committed to help, said Anita Bucher, Platt’s executive assistant. She said approximately 40 families from Brook Hills are currently taking classes to become foster families and another 30 have signed up for classes that will begin in January.

Louise Green, vice president of special programs for ABCH and a member of Brook Hills, said Platt’s challenge was an eye-opener for many in the congregation. “In our profession, we say ‘normal’ people out there in the world don’t understand what kind of need there is out there for Christian foster families,” Green said.

People are excited about this ministry and want to help, she said.

Green is also working with Gardendale’s First to educate members about the need for  families to care for children. On Nov. 8, the church observed Orphan Sunday in conjunction with the Christian Alliance for Orphans and the Cry of the Orphan campaign. Orphan Sunday culminated with a satellite concert by Christian musician and adoptive father Steven Curtis Chapman.

On Nov. 15, Gardendale’s First held For the Least, a conference focusing on orphan and foster care and adoption. Scott Green, minister of young married adults and technology at the church, said Orphan Sunday and the conference were part of an intentional effort to recognize the need for Christian families to care for the parentless. “It should be up to the churches, not the state, to take responsibility [for these children],” he said.

As a follow-up to Orphan Sunday, the conference provided families with more information on local ministry opportunities to help children in need, as well as information on adoption, child-focused missions trips and child-sponsorship programs.

“We know talking about orphans tugs at the heart, so we want to provide more details about the needs out there,” Scott Green said.

Louise Green said she is excited that churches are working to educate families about the many ways they can minister to children. Not everyone is able to adopt a child or provide full-time foster care but those are not the only options, she said. There is a great need for respite, or temporary, care for children when a foster family has an emergency, as well as help with meals, clothing and other expenses, she said, and prayer is always needed.

Helping children in need is a “God-sized task,” said Bucher, but He will provide the “power and the provision.”

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