By David Cooley.
Focus on the Family in conjunction with local agencies and ministries, will be hosting free educational events on foster care, entitled “Wait No More,” later this year, Aug. 20–23, 2019, at four Kentucky locations. One of the locations will be in Northern Kentucky at Florence Baptist Church, Florence, on Aug. 20, at 6 p.m. Event planners are hoping to fill the exceptionally large church with hundreds and hundreds of people. The other three Kentucky events will take place in Lexington, Louisville and Bowling Green.
The Wait No More events are designed to empower and educate people, encouraging families to consider fostering children, adopting children from foster care or supporting other families who do those two things. Architects of the program are making an appeal to the Christian community. They are hoping that churches all across Kentucky will spread the word about the event and invite their congregations to attend. In Kentucky there are more than 6,359 churches with families who can change the lives of these children forever.
Over the past 10 years there have been 39 Wait No More events conducted in 22 states, and over 4,000 families have been inspired to help the foster care system, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Right now there are more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States, 100,000 of whom are available for adoption and waiting for families to call their own.
In Kentucky alone there are over 9,800 children in the foster care system waiting for families. They are children who have often times been through traumatic experiences or cases of abuse or neglect. In some cases they are children of parents who are addicted to opioids, or, even worse, parents who died from an overdose.
Sometimes the children in foster care have been through all of that listed above and more. Ultimately, they are children who, for one reason or another, the state found necessary to move from a situation of danger to a place of safety. And so they wait. They wait in an overwhelmed system, and they wait for an undisclosed amount of time. They are young, ages varying from newborn to 17; they come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. They didn’t ask to be foster children and they deserve families that will love, nurture, support, guide and advocate for them. But where will these families come from?
Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive by providing help and resources, believes that the families will come from Christian churches — the people who are living out the Gospel of Christ, those looking to take care of “the least of these.”
In preparation for the main event in August, representatives from the Diocese of Covington — Ron Bertsch, director of therapeutic foster care/adoption services, and Natalie Hemmer, recruiter, for Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home (DCCH Center for Children and Families); and Deacon Paul Yancey, All Saints Parish, Walton, and assistant to the director, Permanent Deacon Formation — joined other church, government and community leaders at the Kentucky Community Leader dinner Feb. 26 at Florence Baptist Church. There they heard, Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, speak about his personal story as a foster child and about the mission of Wait No More.
Mr. Daly said that after losing his parents at a young age he had many painful experiences but caught glimpses of grace throughout his journey, mostly through small acts of kindness from the people who entered his life by chance.
“The key thing I want to stress in all of this is that I know that side of the story,” Mr. Daly said. “I was that child (in foster care). We as a Christian community need to be involved. This is a place where we can step in, and we have for years … but we can do so much more; we should be doing so much more.”
Mr. Daly and his wife, Jean, became certified foster parents around 10 years ago and have taken care of over 15 children since that time.
“We’ve done it and we know the hardships of it. We, like you, are committed. It is about the children, helping them and finding them forever homes,” he said. “All we want to do is work with you and help you achieve what you can achieve here.”
Mr. Daly said that one of the biggest challenges working in Christian ministry is how to motivate people to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
“Our culture tells us to stick to our comfort and leisure, but that’s not what this life is about for us as Christians,” he said.
Mr. Bertsch is hoping that many in the Catholic community will attend the Wait No More event in August. He said that he fears that foster care, to many people, seems like an unimaginable sacrifice and not something anyone in their right mind would do.
“If the Church can’t offer families willing to make this sacrifice, I fear we are pretty hopeless. But I don’t believe that is the case,” said Mr. Bertsch. “There is hope and there are many within our diocese who are willing to shake off what the world tells them, and do what Christ wants and calls us to do. We are called to care for the orphaned, help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and give warmth to the cold and naked.”
Mr. Bertsch said that he doesn’t want children in Northern Kentucky to wait for a good family.
“We need more Christian families to answer the call now and make a difference in a child’s life now,” he said. “I loved what was said Tuesday night (at the Kentucky Community Leader dinner): whether someone can foster a child for a season or parent for a lifetime, they can make a difference. We need more families to care for these children.
“I encourage each parish and our entire Catholic diocese to support and be the ‘extended family’ for anyone who does feel the call to foster or adopt,” he said. “If we can take some of that fear away by letting them know their bishop, their pastor, their deacon and their fellow parishioners are all praying for them, that is important and very meaningful.”
Mr. Bertsch said that, along with praying for the foster and adoptive parents, there is so much more the people in the Catholic Church can do, aside from fostering and adopting children.
“Some might be called to be shorter term respite providers. Others are maybe called to help with the multiple children in a foster or adoptive home, who need transportation to school events, practice or games. Maybe others could offer to make a meal after a long tough day for a family that was out on medical or therapy appointments. Find ways to help with school homework that is taking a toll on a family,” he said.
Mr. Bertsch said that a good first step for people, no matter what God may be calling them to do, is to make plans to attend Wait No More and bring friends.
Focus on the Family will present a free “Wait No More” foster care event at Florence Baptist Church, Florence, Aug. 20, 6 p.m. Since food will be provided, those interested are asked to register at WaitNoMore.org/KY.
Come and See
Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home (DCCH), Ft. Mitchell, informational meeting, March 14, Independence, Kenton Co. Public Library, 6:30 p.m.; and March 26, at DCCH, 6:30 p.m. DCCH staff are willing to meet with anyone individually, call 331–2040, ext. 8641. The next training program for foster parents will begin May 9. Each session is a 10-week training for three hours each night for a total of 30 hours pre-service training; this includes the Virtus, Protecting God’s Children class. Visit https://www.dcchcenter.org.