In March 2019, Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau and Acting Commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, traveled from Washington, D.C. to visit with us. During his time here, we were able to interact with some Georgia government leaders and several foster families from church partner, Four Points Church. We also gathered with representatives from both a Child Placing Agency from Florida and CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans) during his visit.
He had the opportunity to share his views of the role of the church in foster care. Here are some highlights:
Community is the solution. Jerry believes that the solution to the foster care crisis and to strengthening families has to be community based. Communities know their families, know their cultures and know the local and regional support that is available. If we can strengthen families and keep children in their communities, we are decreasing instability and loss and increasing their chances for thriving.
We need to meet the basic needs of families in crisis. Families are able to stay together when their most basic needs are being met. Many family disruptions can be prevented by helping with basic support early on. Often, meeting these needs can turn a cycle that is spiraling downward to one that is spiraling toward success.
The church is well-poised to create the conditions where families can thrive. The church is community based and often provides services and support in a loving environment. Families whose basic needs are met and who have loving community and support around them have a better chance of thriving. This support to fragile families can prevent them from going back to old behaviors when things get tough.
Helping families helps children. Kids are part of their families, and if we want to help them, we need to help their families. Many people have a heart-felt desire to help children but not necessarily their families. Helping children is a noble cause but if we’re serious about it, we really need to help their families so that these children can thrive.
We can’t do it alone. The foster care crisis is too big for child welfare agencies, the government, or churches to handle alone and we need to continue to work together to make stronger communities and stronger families.