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As Need for Foster Parents Persists, Coalition Finds People of Faith Accepting the Call

Josh Shepherd : Feb 7, 2018  Stream.org

Advocates for America's foster children recently gathered in Washington DC, where one coalition leader revealed that faith is a critical motivation for most foster parents.

[Stream.org] On Wednesday, leaders of the CHAMPS Initiative came together in Washington, DC, to advance strategies for improving foster care. Surprising insights came to light as diverse advocates from more than a dozen states convened. (Photo: via Adoption Choices Arizona)

CHAMPS, a unique coalition of child welfare advocates, policymakers and non-profit groups, stands for "Children Need Amazing Parents." The national effort seeks to enable better outcomes for foster children by compiling and sharing best practices to support foster parents.

"Children do best in stable, loving families," said Ron Haskins of The Brookings Institution. "Foster parents are the key. What's so exciting about CHAMPS is its potential to produce transformational change for children, their parents and the child welfare system itself." Haskins has worked with both the Bush and Obama administrations. A leading think tank, Brookings hosted the CHAMPS event.

Leaders such as Sarah Chiles of New York showed how these ideas play out in their states. "We have great opportunities and challenges," she said. "In New York, 22 percent of kids live in poverty." Chiles champions foster children through the Redlich Horwitz Foundation.

"To recruit, support and retain high-quality foster parents is the most important intervention in our foster care system," she noted.

Foster Parents Show Faith in Action
"Because of the beliefs we hold dear, people of faith have a natural inclination to taking care of the vulnerable." -Jason Weber

Official figures show the U.S. foster care population continues to grow. In November, the Administration for Children and Families announced over 400,000 children are currently in foster care. This represents a 10 percent increase just since 2012. More than 100,000 of these kids are waiting to be adopted.

CHAMPS is not ignoring the greatest source of foster parents—America's faith communities. The coalition includes the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) as a core part of their multi-pronged strategy to help foster kids.

"The Annie E. Casey Foundation has cited that 65 percent of foster parents identify as having a faith affiliation," says Jason Weber. He serves as director of CAFO's foster care initiatives. "Because of the beliefs we hold dear, people of faith have a natural inclination to taking care of the vulnerable. That's always been a part of Christian tradition and carries over into this area."

"Mighty Bands of Followers of Jesus"
Following his event remarks, Weber spoke in an interview with The Stream. Since 2004, CAFO has united hundreds of faith-based groups who care for orphans and vulnerable children. The Nashville-based alliance works across all Christian traditions. Partner groups support a full range of adoption and foster care options.

"I'm watching small, mighty bands of followers of Jesus in various communities throughout the country, asking: What can our churches do together?" says Weber. "They're willing to look past some doctrinal or philosophical differences because the kids in our community are important. We have a divine calling to work together."

He gives a particular example of united Christian action. "Just 10 years ago, an organization of a group of churches rose up, called TheCall," begins Weber. "Today, fifty percent of the certified foster families in the state of Arkansas come from churches mobilized by this organization."

"That kind of change and impact can happen when followers of Christ work together to make a difference for kids"...

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