Bringing the Church Community Together to Recruit and Equip Foster Parents to Reduce the Foster Care List in Washington, D.C.
The Church: The District Church in Washington, D.C.
The Challenge: Provide foster-care children, with stability, love and support.
One Big Idea: Uniting the church community in order to reduce the foster care list in Washington, D.C.
Sierra*, a single mom of four, was overwhelmed, overworked and struggling to move forward in life when the DC127 foster care prevention program connected her with a host home that helped her care for her twin babies every other weekend. Another family provided her with emotional support. A third family introduced her to services around the city.
“This collective church community aided Sierra during her time of struggle,” says Chelsea Guyer, executive director of DC127, an organization launched through The District Church to reduce the number of children in Washington, D.C.’s foster care system.
Launched in 2012, DC127—taken from James 1:27—both recruits and supports foster parents on their journey to help children in need and also works to prevent children from ever having to enter foster care.
“It became clear very quickly that in order to facilitate this process, the church needed to be mobilized,” says Guyer. “However, we recognized that churches don’t have the bandwidth to address all of the technical aspects, so that’s where we come alongside to help.”
Currently, an average of 428,000 kids are in the foster care system nationwide every day. According to a 2013 study by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, for every child who ages out of foster care, society pays $300,000 in social costs over that person’s lifetime.
“Because they’re aging out without a family, they need society to provide everything,” says Guyer, noting that this population is more likely to experience homelessness, incarceration, unwanted pregnancies and human trafficking. “Every statistic is stacked against them. These are wonderful people with dreams and capabilities, but they need a family to walk with them.”
For instance, a foster family looked after Cameron* for the first year of his life. And while they cared for him, they did the same for his birth mother, sending her baked goods, pictures and clothes so that she, too, felt supported and loved. When the time came for Cameron to be reunified with his biological mom, she named the foster parents as Cameron’s godparents; they remain a part of his life today.
For the best result, Guyer notes the importance of the government and churches working in tandem.
“Social workers and adoption agencies do amazing work on behalf of these kids,” says Guyer. “If churches can connect these families to a community that they don’t currently have access to, that’s when amazing things transpire.”
* Names changed