The words of Jesus pierce my heart as I read the facts about the state of children in our country. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
• There are more than 640,000 children in our country who spent time in out-of-home care (in foster care) during 2012 — nearly 400,000 of them on any given day.
• Children in foster care remain there on average two years and change locations nearly four times.
• The average age of these children bouncing from one house to the next is just 9 years old.
• Nearly 10 percent of children exiting foster care “age out,” meaning they’ve not been adopted, are no longer eligible for foster care and are turned out with little or no way to support them.
The state of our children in Tennessee reflects the problem we face nationally with foster care. We have more than 9,000 children in foster care, but we currently have a little more than 4,000 licensed family foster homes and approximately only 17 percent of children are placed in facilities.
Jesus said, “Whatever you did to the least of these, you’ve done to me” (Matthew 25:40).
How my heart breaks for these precious gifts of God who may never experience the love and protection of parents who care for them. So many of these children have been pulled from horrific circumstances that may emanate from destructive lifestyles like addictions that lead to child abuse. I recognize the context of Jesus’ words don’t specifically address foster care, however, I do believe the context could include our children in need.
But you may be like me, overwhelmed at the thought and not sure how one person could make a difference in a seemingly endless sea of need. Here are two ways you could make an immediate impact.
The first is giving a financial gift to the 2014 Mother’s Day Offering for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. The TBCH does not accept government funding for the specific purpose of having the opportunity to plant the hope of Christ in the hearts of children. The Mother’s Day Offering provides 37 percent of the TBCH’s budget and enables ministry to up to 200 children in the residential and independent living programs.
The second way you can help is an exciting new initiative that extends the ministry of the TBCH beyond our five locations across the state.
The TBCH signed a no-cost contract with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services on Nov. 6, 2013, to provide foster care homes for the state. What that means is that the TBCH is committed to recruiting, training, and certifying foster care families to meet the critical need for safe homes for Tennessee’s at-risk children. TBCH staff will train the families, and once certified, will monitor and provide on-going support to the families. Our TBCH will not receive government funding for this program, however, the foster care family will receive a stipend from the state, which is part of a federal foster-care mandate.
Not to be overlooked, families that become involved in foster care have the opportunity to bring the gospel light of Jesus to some who desperately need the hope of Christ. It is a tangible way to directly impact the level of lostness in Tennessee.
In addition to the TBCH Foster Care program is the Caring Community Ministries. Support is a contributing factor to the success of foster families and what better way for that support to be offered than through a local church. The TBCH is looking for local churches that can help. Some of the ways the Caring Community Ministries can assist foster families is to provide meals on an as needed basis; respite care to foster parents; transportation assistance; encouragement and prayer support.
For more information on these opportunities, I’d encourage you to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
True, it is impossible to reverse the effects of sin in a fallen world — that’s why we needed a Savior. But it is also true that we are called to be vessels of mercy who reveal the love of Christ to a hurting world. I can think of no better place to be a vessel than administering mercy to Tennessee’s hurting children.