What if every Alabama Baptist church supported foster care? comment (0)
November 15, 2012
By Rod Marshall
Alabama Baptists truly could change the landscape of foster care in the state with one simple strategy — every church find two families within the congregation willing to be foster families. In fact, a move like this would mean that a Christian foster home would be available for every child that needs foster care in the state.
Such a strategy would mean financial support would need to increase accordingly. But that too is an achievable goal if we band together with our Christian brothers and sisters in the state to attain it.
According to the Department of Human Resources of Alabama, there are currently 6,400 children in our state’s foster care system. Six thousand, four hundred children who — for myriad reasons — cannot live with their biological family. Six thousand, four hundred children who may have experienced abuse or neglect. Six thousand, four hundred children who may have never been read to, sung to or rocked to sleep. Six thousand, four hundred children who may have thought it unusual to have a hot meal for supper or who may have never been tucked in at night. Six thousand, four hundred children.
Interestingly, there are approximately 3,200 Southern Baptist congregations in Alabama. According to The Encyclopedia of Alabama (encyclopediaofalabama.org), about one-fourth of the state’s 4 million residents are Baptists. One million Baptists in Alabama and 6,400 children in foster care. If every congregation decided to begin earnestly praying and seeking two families in their congregation who would be willing to become foster parents, then every child in need of foster care could learn to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and would spend time in a Christian home and a caring community of faith.
If there are 1 million Baptists in our state, that means that if 1 percent of Alabama Baptists, or about 10,000, prayerfully considered and accepted the call to ministry through Christian foster care, then there would be more Baptists desiring to be foster parents than there are children in need of foster care services.
If for every Southern Baptist church in our state, there are three other Christian congregations who participate in some other faith tradition (Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Christ, Pentecostals, Charismatics, nondenominational, etc.), then there could be as many as 12,800 Christian congregations in our state.
The approximate cost of one year of foster care is $11,000. For 6,400 children the annual cost is $70,400,000. For any one ministry to try to provide full-service foster care to all of those children would likely lead to bankruptcy. However, if each of our 12,800 congregations committed to provide $5,500 (barely over $100 per week) to care for the fatherless, we could easily cover the expense of caring for 6,400 children. If for every Southern Baptist in Alabama, there is one other Christian from another faith tradition, then there must be 2 million Christians in Alabama. If that is the case, every Christian could commit to $35.20 per year ($0.68 per week) to completely cover the cost of saving a child’s life. And if congregations engaged in foster care as a community of faith ministry, the cost of that care could be greatly reduced.
If Alabama Baptists lead the way in declaring that we must commit to making available a Christian foster home for any and every child in need, might our Christian sisters and brothers of other denominational traditions join us in our declaration? Jesus said, “As you have done it unto the least of these, so have you done it unto Me.” Six thousand, four hundred “least of these” in Alabama wait to see if we take the teachings of our Lord seriously. I have a hard time understanding why a Christian foster home would not be available for every child in need of care in our state.
If you feel called to the ministry of Christian foster care, you have many options to pursue your calling. You could become a foster parent through Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes. You could be trained and licensed by another ministry or agency in your community. You could also become trained and licensed by the Department of Human Resources in your home county. The process of going through the training and becoming a foster family takes about six months and involves lots of training, multiple background checks and a home study. Believe it or not, many foster parents describe the training as “fun.”
Matthew 9:36–37 says, “Jesus saw the multitudes and He was moved with compassion because they fainted, and were scattered about, like sheep without a shepherd.” I wonder if Jesus sees the same thing when He looks at 6,400 fatherless children in Alabama and I wonder if He is once again moved to compassion? Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Your Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes stands ready to be an equipper of laborers. Please join us in praying to the Lord of the Harvest that laborers would be sent forth.
To contact Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes, call 1-888-720-8805 or visit alabamachild.org.
Editor’s Note — Rod Marshall is executive director of the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.