The number 16,796 garners attention quickly. It is the number of North Carolina children removed from their families in 2018 and placed in the foster care system.
In response to the growing need, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) has added family foster care to its continuum of services. This new ministry provides the training and vital support needed for a family to become a successful, licensed foster home.
Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg, N.C., held a time for foster families to dedicate themselves and the church to raise their foster children in a Christian environment. Families were trained through the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
“It is an exciting step for us because we are partnering with families who have felt God’s call to open their homes, and their hearts, to children desperate for hope,” says BCH president Michael C. Blackwell.
BCH consistently receives referrals from statewide social services departments, the governmental agencies that intervene when it is no longer safe for a child or siblings to live with guardians. These children come to BCH where Christian, professionally-trained cottage parents care for them in family cottage homes.
“There are times when our cottages are the perfect option for children, especially large sibling groups who would be separated otherwise,” says Keith Henry, BCH chief operating officer. “But there are also children who are best suited to live in one of our family foster care homes. Both options allow us to better serve more children – children who we would not have been able to care for previously.”
BCH has trained 37 married couples and 36 children are living in those licensed BCH family foster homes. A number of those families are members of North Carolina Baptist churches who have partnered with BCH and begun foster care ministries as part of their missions efforts.
“God is opening doors for BCH and North Carolina Baptists to serve children and families together in a way that no one else can,” Henry said. “BCH provides the training, licensing and consistent support while the partnering church comes alongside their foster families to provide additional support and Christian community.”
Two of those churches, Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg and Salem Baptist Church in Dobson, have couples in their congregations who have come forward and become foster families through BCH’s training and licensing process.
“We saw such a large need in our community and knew the church could step up to meet it,” said David Powell, senior pastor at Salem Baptist.
Currently, seven children have been placed with foster families from Salem’s congregation. Six of those children are siblings – two siblings each living with three families.
“Because this happens through the church, it creates a wonderful way for brothers and sisters to see one another and worship together – they even celebrate birthdays together,” Powell explains. “There is also an opportunity for co-parenting between the families because of the sibling connection. This is not something that is typically going to happen without the Lord’s hand.”
Powell sees the church’s role and commitment as a means of sharing the gospel with the children. “This is a gospel opportunity as we show the children they are valued. It is an applicable way the church can share God’s love with them.”
The foster care ministry at Providence Baptist, under the leadership of senior pastor John Cashwell, has blossomed through this same partnership. Staci Powell, who leads the church’s foster care ministry alongside Cassandra Overcash, recalls feeling a “burden” for the church to be involved in foster care.
“We started talking with John about this need in our community, and we began to meet with other organizations to find out how to license families who want to foster,” Powell explained. “Not long after, John learned that BCH was doing foster care and offering training classes. It was perfect because of the trust our church has in BCH and how we are intimately involved with them.”
Four families were licensed through initial trainings. During a time of dedication and prayer, the families pledged to raise the children placed in their care in a Christian environment. The church pledged to support the families both practically and financially and to be welcoming to the boys and girls coming into their homes.
“Not everyone will be able to foster, but we can all give a dollar,” Cashwell said. “So, we’ve set up a scholarship to help the families with needs such as bedding and other materials. What we are ultimately doing is an extension of BCH’s mission of ‘sharing hope … changing lives’ by partnering together.”
Henry closely monitors the increasing needs and sees an overwhelmed state child welfare system.
“There’s not enough staff, resources and, most of all, safe placement options for the children in the system. This is why our vision is to have BCH family foster care staff members and church support covering all 100 North Carolina counties to help children no matter where they are.”
For churches or individuals interested in fostering through Baptist Children’s Homes, call (800) 476-3669 or visit bchfostercare.org.