Churches rally to change the face of foster care

Churches celebrate Christian Foster Care Month by encouraging parishioners to take in “modern-day orphans”

When Lisa Tchividjian was looking for something to challenge her family’s spiritual life, her husband mentioned the idea of providing foster care to a needy child.

“At first, I was against the whole idea,” Tchividjian says. “I thought I’d raised my kids. I was finished.”

But soon the couple started taking a class on fostering, and before they knew it, they had little ones living in their home. Tchividjian says she realized God had a bigger plan.

“It’s not about us – it’s about them and their journey with God. And if I get an opportunity to hold their hands, even for a season, it becomes a special adventure with God,” Tchividjian explains.

A solvable problem In the United States there are more than 100,000 children waiting to be placed in foster care homes. According to a report by CitizenLink, there are three churches in the U.S. for each child who is waiting to be adopted.

So if one person from each church adopted a child from foster care, every American “modern-day orphan” would have a home – three times over.

In South Florida alone, there are 500 children waiting for loving homes. And that’s why in 2002, 4KIDS of South Florida, a faith-based foster care Life, created Churches United for Foster Care. They designated January as Christian Foster Care Month in order to continue the grass roots efforts to change the face of foster care.

“There are so many needs out there that seem overwhelming, but with foster care, this is an issue we can solve,” says Doug Sauder, president of 4KIDS of South Florida and author of “The One Factor: How One Changes Everything.”

“A foster family is the answer to a child’s prayer,” Sauder says.

4KIDS started more than 10 years ago when one woman told her church that Christians should get involved in caring for abused and neglected children in crisis. The Life trains and licenses foster families and places children who have been removed from their homes in foster care or temporary shelters. 4KIDS also advises foster parents who desire to adopt their foster children and provides long-term residential support to young adults who “age out” of the foster care system at 18.  <!–pagebreak–>

Sauder says the group is calling on churches to step up and answer God’s mandate to take care of widows and orphans.

“Every day in South Florida 8 to 12 children are removed from their homes. They are taken away in police cars because a parent is behaving badly (not the child). Often the parents are abusing drugs or abusing or neglecting the child,” Sauder says.

“The children didn’t do anything to deserve this. We can give a child the hope he or she needs,” he adds.

Sauder, who is an adoptive parent himself, believes local churches are the answer to South Florida’s foster care crisis.

“We know a lot of pastors aren’t in a position to give financially, and maybe they’re not in the position to foster a child, but pastors are in a position of influence and can share this need with their congregations.”

Leading by example Pastor Gus Flores of Calvary Chapel Coral Springs decided to set an example for his church.

“A lot of pastors look at the issue and feel that they are doing all these other things. They don’t consider foster care for themselves. I wanted to get my church involved, and I felt with our group I needed to lead by example,” he says.

Flores took the mandate in James to care for orphans seriously, and he and his wife started fostering. Before long, twin baby girls were placed in their home. Flores says he sometimes refers to the girls as “little thieves,” because, “They entered our lives and stole our hearts!”

When the girls were eligible for adoption, Flores and his wife jumped at the opportunity.

Flores’ wife, Lorraine, had no idea that fostering would lead to adoption.

“We thought we’d just foster for awhile, [but] we fell in love with these girls. Our church family has embraced them and really spoils them. They’ve been such an amazing blessing. We thought we’d be a blessing to them, yet they’ve blessed us.”

Even those who aren’t able to foster themselves can be a big help to the foster care crisis, Sauder says. In fact, he reminds pastors all the time that it’s actually quite easy to play a part.

“A church can get involved in so many ways from spreading the word, to volunteering, to helping fix-up temporary shelters, to mentoring or actually being a foster parent,” he explains.

“It’s easy for pastors and churches to make a difference. It’s as simple as inviting one of [the 4Kids staff] to your church to share the need. You never know how God may call the people of your church.”

For more information on foster care, please visit www.4KidsOfSfl.org. More information on the book, “The One Factor: How One Changes Everything,” visit HowOneChangesEverything.com.

Karen Granger :