Churches Engaging Foster Care
At the end of last summer, Light Up the City launched the Foster Support Faith Alliance, bringing together local churches, foster/adoption agencies and Children’s Administration representatives in an effort to provide community support wherever it’s needed within the foster care system.
Did you know that foster care touches on each of the areas of ministry that Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and most of our churches, are already engaging in: homelessness, incarceration, even sex trafficking?! Foster youth experience disproportionately high rates of homelessness, incarceration, mental illness, unplanned pregnancy, and substance abuse when they leave care, as well as being extremely vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. It’s estimated that 70% of youth who are commercially sexually exploited in Seattle have spent time in the foster care system. If you want to engage in an upstream, preventative approach to issues such as homelessness and sex trafficking, foster care ministry is a positive start!
Our Foster Support Faith Alliance focuses on caring for foster children, supporting foster/adoptive/bio parents and encouraging Children’s Administration staff. The Foster Care Support Alliance is divided up regionally into individual Local Networks (so far we have 6: North Seattle, East King County, West Seattle, Lynnwood & Snohomish County, and South King County coming soon.)
In just our short five months of existence, we’ve been able to collaboratively host 4 Children’s Administration staff appreciation events to improve morale; collect over 900 donated items for children first coming into foster care; establish new Office Moms & Dads programs in 3 Children’s Administration offices-along with providing volunteers for the 3 already in existence; and provide for numerous last-minute needs of foster parents, children and bio parents in their local communities – one of which was a request that was answered by a specific network within 30 minutes of being asked!
In 2017, we’re restructuring our Alliance meeting schedule to better be able to educate our churches and tangibly meet the needs of a foster system in crisis. Three times a year we will all gather as one Alliance for a time of learning from foster care professionals and networking together. Each local network will also meet individually three other times a year, to work collaboratively in meeting the tangible needs in their foster care communities.
Our new Alliance-wide gatherings will kick-off with an Orphan Care Seminar on Thurs, Mar 2nd with Christian Alliance For Orphans’ Jason Johnson! Jason Johnson is a nationally-known speaker/ author/blogger on foster care ministry and I’m so excited to have him share with us! This is a pre-Refresh conference seminar hosted by Seattle Union Gospel Mission and Refresh at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond! It’s also a great event to invite fellow church pastors/ layleaders to, as they’ll come away both inspired and equipped to engage in this important work!
Here is a testimonial about our new Foster Support Faith Alliance from Maia Anderson, of Fostering Together, written to a new DSHS coordinator at the West Seattle office: “This year we have been fortunate that Seattle Union Gospel Mission has worked tirelessly to organize local networks of faith community support around many different Children’s Adminsitration offices. White Center/ OICW has been one where this has begun to show amazing results/ impact. One story of impact is out of the adoptions unit, who reached out to me to help a single foster mom who had a little boy in her care for almost 4 years. She was going through an unprecedented hard time and was laid off. She was actively pursuing a new position and had her home up for sale that produce a windfall of financial resources but wasn’t able to make her October rent totally nearly $800. I passed this request on to Mandy and she put it before the faith network. The full amount of the funds was committed with 48 hours. WOW! While I played a small role in communicating the need…really the credit here goes to [UGM]! … we are lucky to have them supporting our offices.”