Faith groups and foster care

Three years ago this spring, we welcomed two little boys into our family on a temporary basis. What we intended to be a short-term act of kindness will turn out to be a lifelong relationship of love.

My wife and I had attended a family funeral the year before and heard a moving message in tribute to her grandfather. He had been a pseudo-foster parent to a couple of boys who needed a home and had provided the chance to give them a great life.

Although we had three children of our own, his example inspired us, and we felt compelled to do something. We believed we were being called to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and open our home to children who needed one.

As a pastor, I heard about the faith community working with DFCS to solve the state’s burgeoning foster care problem. We attended an event hosted by FaithBridge Foster Care, which helps partner churches and foster families.

As a result, two little brothers came into our lives. Today, Colton, 5, and Bryce, 3, are our legally adopted sons.

As the executive director of leadership at Stonecreek Church in north Fulton County and with the support of the senior pastor and leadership team, we asked FaithBridge to come to our church and enlist families as potential foster parents.

The model is simple. FaithBridge helps equip churches to get involved in foster care and recruits families to foster and to volunteer. There are 100 Christians for every foster child. We need just 1 out of a 100 Christians to say “yes” to our country’s foster children. It would be a huge accomplishment as the nation wraps up celebrating National Foster Care Month this month.

At Stonecreek Church, we currently have three active foster families, including two that provide respite care for the other foster family. We have approximately six more families who serve these foster families through a community of care by providing relief such as babysitting. Approximately 25 other families recently signed up to learn more about how to participate in this ministry as full-time foster parents or support families.

In Georgia, more than 7,600 foster children have been taken from their homes for reasons ranging from abuse to neglect. According to a study released last fall, 51 percent of foster children stay in foster care for a year or more. With the FaithBridge model, community organizations such as FaithBridge, working with churches, can not only provide loving homes for these children, but offer a path to help restore the family of origin. It’s best for these kids that they return to a healthy Mom and Dad someday.

Foster children are the orphans of the 21st century. As a community, we have a duty to care for these children in distress. Some of them haven’t had proper family structure for years, including set meals, bedtime, hygiene or discipline.

There is no one better equipped than the faith community to find these children loving homes and offer services such as extracurricular activities. We are here to alleviate the extreme pressure placed on DFCS and government workers who are stressed trying to handle the enormous caseloads of foster children. Programs such as FaithBridge, which partner with churches such as Stonecreek, can find children homes and support while DFCS provides oversight.

Colton and Bryce have blended beautifully into our family and adjusted to their older brothers and sister. Every time I hear about another foster care case, I am sadly reminded of the future these boys could have had, had this program not entered their lives.

Being a foster parent has opened our eyes to see that with the faith community on board, we can all make a big difference in these children’s lives.

Ryan Martin, an ordained minister, lives in Canton with his wife Stephanie, their three biological children, and two foster children they recently adopted.