GN: What is 4KIDS of South Florida?
TL: 4KIDS of South Florida is a non-profit organization that exists to rescue the modern day orphan from the depths of despair and lead them to a path of hope. We do this through a paradigm of: Prevention, Protection, Provision, and Permanent Solutions.
GN: When you say “modern day orphan”, what do you mean by that? What does a modern-day orphan look like?
TL: A modern-day orphan looks like your son or daughter. They are innocent victims of abuse, neglect, or abandonment at the hands of their own parents. They look like God’s kids. They need God’s family!
GN: What exactly does the ministry of 4KIDs do?
TL: We take a multi-faceted approach to helping kids in crisis. We have our Safe Families program that provides temporary, emergency care to help to prevent a child from entering the foster care system. We run the 4KIDS SafePlace emergency receiving center where every child in Broward County, upon removal from their parent’s home, comes to us until placement can be secured with a relative, foster home or shelter. We have foster homes for kids who do come into the system. We have family-style group homes for siblings and teens. We have homes for girls experiencing an unwanted pregnancy and for their care and support after they give birth. We have homes for kids who have turned 18, and who must leave their foster homes or shelters and would otherwise be homeless. Bottom line? We are an orphan care ministry that provides hope and homes for kids in crisis in a very loving, careful, strategic, and compassionate way, so that lives can be changed and the cycle of abuse can be broken.
GN: Can you give our readers a brief history of the 4KIDS organization?
TL: Our roots go all the way back to 1997, when one woman approached her pastor about the foster care crisis in her own backyard. That one woman’s plea prompted the pastors and leadership of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale to put their plans for a Christian school on hold for two years in order to establish a foster care ministry. In 1999, 4KIDS received licensure as a faith-based Christian foster care agency. In 2000, we contracted with State of Florida’s Department of Children and Families for the 4KIDS SafePlace emergency shelter. In 2002, Calvary Chapel opened the KidsPlace emergency shelter, designed to keep siblings together in the midst of a family crisis requiring DCF intervention. In 2003, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, 4KIDS, and His Caring Place merged to create 4KIDS of South Florida, Inc. In 2005, we opened the Spirit of Success Institute to meet the needs of kids “aging-out” of the foster care system. Also in 2005, we were contracted to provide foster homes in Palm Beach County. Today, we continue to minister to the orphan, widow and stranger in our community, and provide consultation support to 123 organizations in 29 states and four countries. It’s incredible to think that we have been able to serve over 15,000 kids since we opened our doors just a little more than ten years ago.
GN: What is the picture of the child welfare system in Florida and in the United states today?
TL: Although it is better than it was 15 years ago, it is still bleak for the child in the shelter, the child separated from his siblings, or the child waiting everyday for a permanent solution to his plight. There are still not enough homes for all the kids in care. There are still not enough families ready to adopt the children in the system. There are still kids and families who need our help, who need hope!
Right now there are just 800 kids available for adoption in the entire state. That is a solvable number if every church did something. We have a vision of “Every Church – Every Child,” which is just what it sounds like; if each church in our state would commit to making an adoption a reality for just one child, we could save the lives of those 800 kids virtually overnight.
GN: How does what you do impact a young mother who may be considering having an abortion?
TL: Our His Caring Place ministry provides homes for girls and young ladies experiencing an unwanted pregnancy. These homes offer an opportunity for these girls to complete their pregnancy in a safe, secure environment, while receiving counsel and guidance to help them decide whether they will place their child for adoption or parent the child themselves. If the mom chooses to parent her child, we will help her to get an education, get a job working towards a career, and help her to get settled on her own. We work to help the mom break the cycle and become independent. If the mom chooses the route of adoption, we can recommend a few different adoption agencies that will help them through that process.
GN: What parallels can we draw between the ministry of adoption and foster care and what God has done for us in Jesus?
TL: God clearly tells us in His Word that He has adopted us. In Ephesians 1:4-6, the Bible says, “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son.”
It is right there as plain as day – God chose us! He decided in advance to adopt us into His own family. He has given us new life, and we should do the same for those He has told us to take care of. In James 1:27, the Bible says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” I don’t think the Bible could be any clearer here. This is what God calls religion—caring for orphans and widows. Not holding signs, not complaining about politics, not pointing out someone else’s sin, but caring for orphans and widows. We need to take the log out of our eye, take our blinders off, and be about God’s business of caring for orphans and widows!
GN: How can people in the community get involved in the ministry of 4KIDS?
TL: There are many simple ways to serve. We know that not everyone can foster or adopt, but everyone can do something. The best way to see all the opportunities to serve is to go to our website, www.4kidsofsfl.org, and click on “Get Involved.” There you will see many ways to volunteer, to support, and to partner with 4KIDS. At the moment, we have our BiG Cardio 5k Fun and Fitness Day taking place on May 5th at the Central Broward Regional Park. This is going to be a great day of friendly competition for the whole family, with all proceeds benefitting the ministry. Our goal is to raise $300,000 for kids in crisis through this event. More details and information are available on our website or by calling Joyce Feldman, our Business Development Director at 954-556-4677.
GN: What if someone is interested in becoming a foster parent?
TL: For more information on fostering and adoption, anyone interested can visit our website and click on “Solving the Crisis,” and then click on “Foster Care.” They can also call Joan Englert, our Foster Parent Mentor and Trainer, at 954-556-4685.
GN: How has the ministry of adoption and foster care touched your life personally?
TL: My life has been forever changed through my involvement with the ministry of 4KIDS. I often say that I have the best job in the world, as I am blessed to witness and be a part of lives being changed and saved every day. I have countless stories I could share, but Mez and Cindy’s wedding day was one of the highlights of my life. I was able to officiate the wedding in an incredible story of redemption; one that I was also blessed to participate in through being part of Mez’s life for over 17 years. Being a part of this ministry had shown me how much God loves orphans, and how much he wants us to do the same.
To watch Mez’s story, check out the Undercover Heroes documentary on the 4KIDS YouTube Channel at youtube.com/4KIDSOFSFL.To give to the ministry of 4KIDS, visit www.4kidsofsfl.org and click on “Make A Gift.” Just $30 a month can literally help save the life of a child in the foster care system.