BY EMMA JOHNSON, DIRECTOR – SAFE FAMILIES FOR CHILDREN/MADISON COUNTY
On Saturday, March 12 over 200 people shuffled through the doors of Light of the World Christian Church. I sat in my chair in a huge church gymnatorium drinking a fresh cup of coffee with a small group of women I call co-workers. We chatted and I glanced around the room at the tables that were eagerly displaying their information: Hands of Hope Adoption and Orphan Care. Indiana Heart Gallery. New Song Mission. Confessions of an Adoptive Parent. Department of Child Services. Safe Families for Children. Bethany Christian Services. I am sitting at the Every Child Event to find out what more I could do to care for Indiana’s hungry, poor, abused, orphaned and neglected children.
A few speakers strongly championed the foster care system. I was moved to hear Director of Indiana’s Department of Child Services, Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, share her personal and heart wrenching journey of adoption along with current child welfare statistics: There are over 18,000 kids in foster care in the state of Indiana. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a foster-care success story by Dr. Jamie Schwandt. He was a kid who bounced through the foster care system starting in the 8th grade, then watched his parents make dangerous and poor decisions throughout his life. Dr. Jamie didn’t get stuck – he shared that he chose to identify with his foster parents and went on to complete a Doctor of Education from Kansas State and become a United States Army Reserve Captain. He lovingly credited the foster care system for saving his life.
Other speakers were advocates of adoption. If you ever have the opportunity to Google George Dennehy, I highly encourage it. George is a walking miracle. There is something about seeing a man with no arms stand up out of his chair after singing and playing guitar with his feet, walk across the stage and share how he would be dead if his adoptive mother didn’t fly across the ocean and pluck him out of a Romanian orphanage. George kindly and gently encouraged the audience not to be afraid to allow God to use us: “My parents said Let’s adopt an outcast. Someone that nobody else wants. I think God is calling each and every one of us to do something, we just need to say use me.”
Lastly, Dr. David Anderson, Krista Seeds and Handel Smith supported caring for the weak and the needy through the Safe Families model – intervening in a parent’s life before adoption and the foster care system become necessary. Krista Seeds (Davis) proudly announced that “The government cannot care for vulnerable children without our help.” Handle Smith, Chief Domestic Officer of the Church of God, shared his family’s story about how they became a shelter for an entire family who had nowhere to go. Handel stated to the audience, “What’s happening to our children and where is the church?” Dr. David Anderson, Founder of the Safe Families for Children movement, believes that God is using this collective church movement to change the face of child welfare around the world. Dr. Anderson stated with authority, “The church is called to be a change agent to our society. If not the church, then who?”
At the end of the event, I sat alongside my co-workers with misty eyes, then stood in applause at the efforts that were collectively made by DCS, Hands of Hope Adoption/Bethany Christian Services, and Safe Families to not only change the face of Child Welfare, but to put the Church back into its rightful place of being on the forefront of caring for the least of these. As I stood, I recalled an article I read not too long ago, entitled “What if the Church destroyed the foster care system as we know it?” The author states that there would be zero children waiting to be adopted out of foster care in the U.S. if one family from every three churches committed to adopt one child. Although those figures are shocking, a huge swell of pride came from within me as I began to understand that in Indiana, in the gymnatorium of an Indianapolis church at the Every Child event, we were making a dent in those frustrating statistics.
The original link to this story was published on the Grace Church Blog on April 11, 2016.