By: Ruth Schenk
On Nov. 2 and 3, Southeast Christian Church will observe Orphan Sunday, joining thousands of churches focusing on the 153 million parentless children around the world.
That weekend, representatives from Southeast’s partner, Orphan Care Alliance, will be available at all three campuses to answer questions. The nonprofit was founded by three Southeast members already involved in foster care and adoption but quickly grew to include other churches and programs for adoption education and post-adoption care for families.
It also provides foster care programs, support programs for children and for those aging out of the system.
“Our goal is to raise awareness about adoption and foster care while highlighting ways people can be involved in caring for the fatherless even if they can’t adopt,” said Michael Kast, who leads Family Ministry at Southeast.
Darren Washausen, executive director of Orphan Care Alliance, understands overwhelming need as he fields calls from state agencies and ministries about children in crisis.
There is a wait list for every program at Orphan Care Alliance. In the Kentuckiana region alone, more than 2,200 children are under state care.
“We may not be able to change the world, but we can change the world for one child,” he said. “Our goal is to equip Christians to help the fatherless. Everyone can be involved through our Safe Families program that provides respite for families in crisis, the Life Coach program that pairs adults with teenagers aging out of the system and foster care, which provides for children who have been removed from their homes.”
Recently, a mom needing chemotherapy called Orphan Care Alliance looking for a safe place for her children to stay for a few weeks. They were able to call one of the families in the Safe Families program to help out. Another call came from a grandmother who found herself and her 11-year-old granddaughter homeless. Orphan Care Alliance provided a place for her granddaughter while she found a new place to live.
“The goal of the Safe Families program is to keep children from going into foster care,” said Washausen. “Parents are fearful to put their children into foster care. They long for a safe place to stay while they deal with a need. We’re seeing good results with this both for parents and children.”
Life Coaches walk alongside teenagers soon aging out of the foster care system. At 18, they begin to fend for themselves with little or no preparation.
“These kids need a trusting relationship,” Washausen said. “Of the 300 kids who age out in Jefferson County, approximately 75 percent will end up homeless or in prison for lack of support and direction. Our goal is to provide someone to coach, challenge and love them.”
There also is a great need for caring foster parents.
To those who are afraid to take the risk, Washausen said that training eases some apprehension.
“People stay away from the unknown,” he said, “But you can go into the training, learn not to be scared and put your toe in the water and see where it leads you.”
Linda Grieves, who volunteered for the Safe Family program, has seen the difference it makes in the lives of children and families who find themselves in dire situations.
“A little boy named Noah came to stay with us for a while,” she said. “Safe Families made it so easy. It was important to keep his family together. This is a great way to make a difference in the life of a child.”
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