There are 400,000* children and youth in foster care in America, and 4,000 of them are here in South Florida. What better time than May, which is National Foster Care Month, to acknowledge the foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, members of the community and the agencies who connect these kids to permanent homes.
Being part of a problem that includes half a million displaced children puts South Florida on the frontlines of finding a solution, and one local organization is taking steps to solve the problem in both Florida and beyond.
God’s heart for orphans
God has a special place in His heart for orphans; at least 30 references in the Old Testament, and several in the New, call to defend, support, and protect them. As the church, we’re biblically mandated still today to care for modern-day orphans, and to foster care agency 4KIDS of South Florida, that means children who have been abandoned, abused and neglected.
“God does not tolerate injustice, especially the kind that creates these circumstances for children,” said 4KIDS President, Doug Sauder. “We’re created in His image, so we should act the same way He does—pulling all the strings we can to advocate for justice for kids and provide the love they desperately need.”
When 4KIDS of South Florida started 17 years ago, their vision was to provide loving homes for kids in crisis. That’s because these invisible kids were being removed from their families for abuse or neglect, but once funneled into the foster care system, they were often moved several times before they found a fit, and sadly many encountered additional abuse and further neglect by people who were supposed to protect them. Undoubtedly the system was broken, and it was taking a huge financial and social toll on the community, not to mention an emotional toll on its children.
A home for every child
Providing a home for every child is a lofty goal, but it’s one that 4KIDS has worked consistently toward achieving by partnering with individuals, churches and corporate partners who felt the call to love on modern-day orphans. In fact, their model has been so successful that state and county organizations have approached 4KIDS of South Florida to replicate the model on their behalf; one of those is almost complete: SafePlace Palm Beach County, where 800 – 1,000 kids are expected to need the agency’s help in the next year.
The 4KIDS model revolves around caring for the whole child: emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Creating this kind of environment for healing saves the system over a million dollars a year, so, when you give a dollar to 4KIDS, the return on your investment, besides its tax-deductibility, is the savings to our social system.
As 4KIDS continues to grow and expand and impact this national problem, there is a constant and increasing need for advocates, financial support, volunteers, and foster families, and the best way to find your fit is to visit the agency website at 4KIDSofSFL.org.
*Sept, 30, 2012, AFCAR