Millennial Monday: Oklahoma’s foster care epidemic
Imagine waking up one day and moving your whole life, within a moment’s notice, to another city. Now to add to how jarring that would be, imagine being separated from the only people you know in the world—say a brother or sister.
Thousands of children in Oklahoma and across our country experience this scenario not just once, but multiple times before they are even out of their adolescence.
That is why, my friend and fellow brother or sister in Christ, we as the Church need to take action to end the foster care epidemic in our state.
I wrote a story last week for the Baptist Messenger about a foster care event happening this November, directly following the Annual Meeting of Oklahoma Baptists. The event is called an “equipping conference” and will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 13 at First Baptist Church of Edmond. Now let me tell you why this story particularly affected me more than most stories I write.
I sat down to talk with Amy Cordova, the Women’s Missions and Ministries specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, about foster care in our state, and the numbers she presented to me were startling.
According to Amy, there are more than 8,500 children in foster care in Oklahoma, and more than 90 of those children actually go to bed in a shelter each night.
In the same week, I seemed to be inundated with the foster care initiative everywhere I turned. On one of the local news channels, I happened to see their foster/adoption segment where they highlight a child “in waiting” each week. The child that week happened to be a 16-year-old boy who feared that if he didn’t get adopted now, he might never have a family.
Statistics like the numbers I mentioned above and stories like the 16-year-old boy who desperately wanted an earthly family are heart wrenching. These stories brought me to ask the question: What is the church doing to take care of the widows and orphans?
At any church, on any given Sunday, there are things you will experience without a doubt every time you step in church. The passing of the offering plate, a time of welcome, a time of worship, a Gospel presentation, etc.
I think one thing that should also be on the list of things to just expect from church each week is for members to be challenged to take a role in aiding foster care families, or becoming one yourself.
Every single week, we should not relent until the children in our state have homes and the foster care epidemic has been resolved.
Right now, our state is looking at an enormous number of children who do not have homes, and a fraction of the amount of homes needed to fill this need.
If we, as God’s people and members of His Church took this issue more seriously, we could put an end to the foster care need in our state.
Amy recommended several ways to help foster families if fostering a child is not something you are able to do. Consider throwing a birthday party for foster children, babysitting so parents can have a date night or even providing a meal. There are endless options on how to help solve the foster care problem in our state.
At “The Gospel, the Church and Foster Care” event, there will be many opportunities to take action and open your hearts to children in foster care by supporting ministries like the 111 Project which serves to mobilize the local church so that no child is without a family. ‘1 Church, 1 Family for 1 purpose could change anything and everything.
There will be powerful champions of the cause of foster care at the event who will offer insight into their lives as foster parents and what they have done to fight the epidemic in Oklahoma.
My husband and I had a conversation about how we plan to help end the need for foster care in our state, and we plan to act on it. Let’s not just let this be a topic we discuss until we feel better about ourselves. Children’s lives depend on our action or in-action when it comes to childcare. Let’s take action.
I encourage you to think deeply about how you can help a family who is fostering or think about fostering yourself. I know that is easier said than done, and fostering can be a grueling process. However, each time I think about how hard fostering may be, I also think about how hard it would be to be an adolescent and have nowhere to go, or no place to call home.
We are called as Christ followers to take care of the widows and orphans. Our question shouldn’t be if we should help, it should be how can we help and when.