While the foster care needs in Oklahoma remain great, Oklahoma Baptists are finding creative ways to minister and meet the needs of foster families.
One such example comes from southeast Oklahoma, in LeFlore Association, where the Foster Family Retreat at Kiamichi Baptist Assembly took place, July 28-29.
“Through our contact with DHS, we discovered one of the needs of foster parents is the ability to get their 12 hours of required annual training,” said Neil O’Donnell, director of missions (DOM) in LeFlore Association.
“It is difficult to work your busy schedule around, in order to be able to take off work, or find a certified training during your free time. Mainly because foster parents are so busy that they don’t have any free time,” he said.
With all that in mind, O’Donnell and others came up with the Foster Family Retreat. The retreat was aided by Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children’s (OBHC) One Such Child foster care ministry.
Participants in the camp were able to obtain six of the 12 hours needed, plus have a memorable experience, including a mix of Vacation Bible School and camp-style activities for the children.
“It was a Saturday and Sunday event where the families enjoyed all the fun things that church campers get to enjoy while their parents are getting their training,” O’Donnell said. “And the training was in the mornings so the parents can spend time with the kids having fun the entire afternoon. On Saturday evening, there was a time of worship and preaching at the event followed by a Christian movie.”
People from the region and other parts of the state registered for the camp. “We have folks from practically every part of the state signed up,” said O’Donnell. Ultimately, the camp drew 79 adults, 165 children, 27 DHS workers/volunteers and 65 VBS/childcare workers.
According to O’Donnell, 12 people made professions of faith in Christ at the event.
Teri Blanton, OBHC’s One Such Child foster care coordinator said, “OBHC was honored to provide the LeFlore Baptist Association the assistance they requested in promoting the event and getting the training approved for statewide acceptance through DHS.”
“After visiting with Randy, and investigating the ministry, we were able to see the opportunity this ministry holds for reaching a great number of lost souls. In the LeFlore Baptist Association alone we have between 100 and 110 foster families, many of which are unchurched families,” he said.
Beyond this camp, Oklahoma Baptists of all ages and volunteer levels can find ways to share Christ’s love, connected to foster care, O’Donnell believes.
“We have volunteer coordinators who work with churches to come alongside foster families in their area and ‘adopt’ the family,” O’Donnell said. “It might be a Sunday School class or an entire church, but a person, or persons, in the church become the local contacts who work to love-on and pray for the family they have adopted. It might even be a set of grandparents who are not officially in the foster care system, but need help as well.”
To discover more about foster care ministry opportunities, churches or individuals can contact Blanton at (405) 972-7901 or [email protected].
As more people step up to serve, like those who helped at the Foster Family Retreat, foster care children and foster families will increasingly feel Christ’s love through caring Oklahoma Baptists.
Children in need of foster homes range in age from infants to teenagers. They may have an emotional or behavioral challenge, have been neglected, abused or abandoned, or have experienced a breakdown in the family.
The children are of different races and religions. They identify with their own culture and need help with maintaining their identities, staying connected to their birth families and learning how to be capable, worthwhile and responsible.
Some of the children are older, have medical, emotional or special need requirements, or are part of a sibling group that needs to be placed together. The important thing to remember is that all children deserve a family.
For more info on your role in Foster Care and adoption, visit obhc.org.
Blanton added, “LeFlore Association, under the leadership of DOM Neil O’Donnell, cast a huge vision to minister to foster and adoptive families in need of encouragement and support. They executed their plan with the support of DHS workers, Oklahoma Disaster Relief Workers, and local church members. It truly was a blessing to see children and youth having fun, while their foster parents received DHS re-certification training.”
O’Donnell credits a fellow director of missions with helping him see foster care as a great opportunity to share Christ’s love.
“We have followed the lead of one of our sister associations, Atoka-Coal, and its director of missions, Randy Hurt,” said O’Donnell.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma where this article originally appeared. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)