COVID-19 and the impact in the foster care system

Patricia Holbrook
Patricia Holbrook

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman

The current unrest in America is just another drop in the bucket in the ways our society has hurt since the COVID-19 outbreak. As one browses the news, it has become increasingly challenging to find headlines that inspire hope and trust in the human spirit.

I was walking in the park earlier this week, praying for our country, when I spotted a small group of children of diverse ethnicity, happily enjoying each other’s presence while holding hands. The image, set against the backdrop of my prayers, reminded me of Jesus’ famous words when the disciples tried to rebuke little children who were trying to get close to him: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Purity, joy and unbiased love are the natural traits of little children – qualities that our world so desperately needs these days. But unfortunately, many children face circumstances that force them to lose their innocence and joyful spirit early in life.

Abuse, neglect and unstable household situations placed approximately 14,000 children in foster care in Georgia last year. According to Bob Bruder-Mattson, president and CEO of FaithBridge Foster Care, there is a significant probability that the numbers will upsurge due to the pandemic since the economic environment is prime for increased abuse and neglect. Time will tell, but for the time being, I am rejoicing with the great news he shared with me during our interview earlier this week.

According to Bruder-Mattson, his agency has trained “a record number of people interested in becoming foster parents in response to the surge of children who will need care due to the impact of COVID-19 and its economic fallout.” The numbers translate into an impressive 48% increase from 2019. FaithBridge has trained 124 people between March and May compared to 84 people during the same period in 2019.

“People are focusing on what is important during this time, and giving back to others such as fostering a child who has been neglected or abused is one way that they can serve others,” Bruder-Mattson said.

FaithBridge is a Christian organization, and, as such, it partners with 55 churches around the Atlanta area to bring awareness and fulfill the immediate needs in the foster care system. Its partner churches vary in membership size. From small churches in the Atlanta suburbs to megachurch North Point, FaithBridge’s Community of Care model wraps around each church partner with training, support and coaching, and provides spiritual guidance to church members interested in becoming foster families and those seeking to fulfill the needs of foster families.

“We didn’t expect the incredible response of people signing up to train and become foster parents during the COVID-19 crisis, but God did,” said Bruder-Mattson. Last year, FaithBridge’s board of directors and leadership felt led to invest to expand their digital service capabilities. Little did they know that they certainly needed the larger network frame to accommodate the surge in training and enrollments during the past three months.

The increasing interest in foster care is much welcome by the organization. Floyd County and Hall County alone have over 600 children in foster care but only have about 120 foster homes. The potential foster families go through a four-session online training program that prepares them to serve in this beautiful initiative.

Children indeed need a healthy environment, lest they become, as Frederick Douglass so insightfully said, “broken men.”

At a time when our world is filled with brokenness, hatred and despair, my heart rejoices to see that this pandemic has stirred up goodness and selflessness in the hearts of so many families. My prayer is that this is only one among many other ways that God is indeed working amid the crisis, helping us focus on loving our neighbor and helping our fellow men.

Find out how to get involved at www.faithbridgefostercare.org.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Her newly published Bible Study – Twelve Inches – is available starting on March 2. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com for information. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com