Church urges foster care
No child should be without a family — or a community.
That belief is the driving force behind Community Church’s new foster care initiative, The Village, said Amanda Powell, chief operating officer for Community Church.
More than 1,000 children across Hampton Roads are in foster care — and there are many others that agencies are trying to place into the foster care system, said Powell.
Through The Village, Community Church is helping families navigate the cumbersome process of becoming foster parents, according to Dawn Sutherland, the church’s communications director. The Chesapeake church is streamlining the process by bringing multiple social service and foster agencies together at the Jolliff Road church for training and information sessions.
In addition to increasing the number of foster families, the church wants to build strong support networks around the foster families, Sutherland said.
“We’re trying to remove all the obstacles that come along out of the way … with healthy, sustaining care communities,” Sutherland said. “We want all children to feel value and to feel the love of Jesus.”
Foster families provide healthy, stable homes for children between infancy and age 18, according to Sutherland. Ideally, children would only be in foster care until the birth family’s issues are resolved and changes made, she said.
Foster families would also go through 16 to 30 hours of training, depending upon the foster agencies’ requirements.
Community Church is also pairing each foster family with a respite family, who would take on a role similar to that of an aunt, uncle or grandparent, Powell said. They would be asked to provide overnight care for the foster child at least one weekend a month.
Respite families would also go through 16 to 30 hours of training, she said.
Also, each foster family would have four or five supporting mentors who would act as family friends, Powell said. They would mentor foster children and help out the foster family by providing child care, transportation or meals two or three times a month.
All applicants would go through background checks, either with Community Church or through the various foster agencies and social service department that are participating, Sutherland said.
Although the program has been in works for the past 10 months, the church launched it publicly in May, Sutherland said. So far, 160 people have signed up to participate in some way.
There are other ways people can volunteer with The Village, she said. For example, volunteers are making backpacks for social workers to give foster children and painting and redecorating visitation rooms at Portsmouth Social Services, she said.
The community is welcome to join in The Village, Sutherland said.