When we look at the statistics, the task of caring for children in Child Protection Services seems overwhelmingly daunting. In Harris County alone, more than 29,000 children are involved with CPS each year.* The needs there are certainly vast.
When we remember our Father’s heart for the orphaned, outcast, and marginalized, however, these overwhelming statistics become ways to display the power and goodness of our God. With vast need comes a vast amount of ways you and your church can help children in your community.
Here are ten to get you started:
1. CarePortal and Adopt-A-Family
These two programs are designed to help connect children and families with vital needs to the faith community through the caseworker. Their caseworker makes a request about the needs of the family, and that request is then relayed to faith communities within a 15 to 60 miles radius of the family. The goal is that the faith community will help meet the needs of the families in their community. www.careportal.org
2. Rainbow Room
Rainbow Rooms are 24/7 resource centers usually located within local Child Protective Services offices. In the Rainbow Room, CPS caseworkers can get supplies such as clothing, school supplies, diapers, and more for children who are victims of abuse or neglect. Congregations can contribute items, volunteer to find donations, work sorting the donations, or donate space for a Rainbow room. http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/child_protection/rainbow_rooms/
3. Blue Sunday and Stand Sunday
The national day of prayer for child abuse and neglect (also known as Blue Sunday) is the last Sunday in April. This Sunday, churches gather to pray on behalf of abused and neglected children and learn ways they can help them. www.bluesunday.org.
Similarly, Stand Sunday is a time in November for faith communities to stand together and raise awareness for children in foster care in the United States. Like Blue Sunday, congregations are encouraged to learn ways they can advocate for these children. https://cafo.org/?s=Stand+Sunday.
4. The Heart Gallery
The Heart Gallery is an art show helping foster children in protective custody who are waiting for adoptive families step from the shadows into the light. Churches can display the Heart Gallery photos in their church periodically throughout the year. These stirring portraits reveal the children's amazing spirits and individuality and have helped many of them find loving forever homes. https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/adoption_and_foster_care/texas_heart_galleries/default.asp
You can provide temporary care for children in foster care. This program gives families and caregivers a much-needed break while offering a safe environment for their children. https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adoption_and_Foster_Care/Get_Started/default.asp
6. Babysitting/Parents Night Out
Your church can establish ministries that provide babysitting for current foster/adopt parents within the community. Establishing a monthly or quarterly time to bring volunteers together to watch and care for children for an allotted amount of time gives parents a break for a regular date night or even just a quiet day.
You can also establish mentorship programs that connect people who have specific skills and knowledge (mentors) with youth in CPS care. Mentors help break down barriers, provide positive role models, and create opportunities for success for each child.
8. Foster/Adopt Ministries
Engage the community by establishing a foster/adoption care ministry. You can provide support to current foster/adopt families and recruit additional families from within your congregation.
9. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), dedicated and committed volunteers provide a voice for abused and neglected children who are going through the difficult legal process. CASA volunteers receive professional, specialized training on trauma, child welfare, the court system and cultural competency amount other. www.texascasa.org
10. Special Occasion Parties/Events
Host a holiday party, birthday party, or picnic with food and refreshments for several foster and adoptive children and their families. Special occasion parties give a “hands-on” experience and help children and families in need.
Marie Burrus is UBA's Communications Specialist. She manages, edits, and contributes content for UBA's blog, website, UBA Voices newsletter, and social media outlets.