Local churches sought for foster care, adoption program
SEBRING - Pastor Darin Canary only needs 130 Christian families, and when you do the math, he said, it shouldn’t be that hard. If he can reach that goal, kids in the state’s care in Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties will get nurturing foster homes and families willing to adopt them, he said. Siblings won’t get split and kids would get the help they need through some tough times, he added. About three weeks ago, the senior pastor of Wauchula’s First Christian Church launched 111 Project Florida in the three-county area to get churches to identify one family in their congregation who would make good foster parents and help them with supporting services.“111 Project Florida is asking the local church to join them in the hope-filled belief that: If every church will commit at least one family for one purpose, we will leave no Florida child without a family,” their website states. Wednesday, Canary appeared before the Children’s Services Council to exhort members to talk to their churches. Although the program has officially launched, he is planning to hold an information session in Highlands County for anyone who has questions about fostering and adopting. There are 700 “legitimate” churches in the tri-county area, he told council members, and 100 kids who need foster homes and 30 to 40 ready to be adopted. “We need 130 families to solve the problem,” he said. “The problem is getting the churches to do what they are supposed to do…When we are doing this, we are doing something close to God’s heart.” Those gathered learned that adopting a child in the state’s care does not cost money and adoptive parents may be eligible for a federal tax credit on their income tax returns. Foster parents also get a stipend and several support services exist to help them through the process. The non-profit group Heartland For Children administers the foster care and adoption needs for the tri-county area, and 111 Project would direct those interested to them. “There is a plethora of resources,” said Cebien Alty, a foster parent of 50-plus kids. “If you get into it, you will not be alone.” Alty, who now runs an organization in Polk County to help underprivileged families, shared his experience as a former hold-out who did not want to get involved in fostering other people’s kids. He didn’t want to consider it when his wife brought it up. He had a negative image about foster parents, foster kids and foster homes. “I was the roadblock. I didn’t want it. Take it somewhere else,” he told his wife. It all changed five years ago when his pastor tried to get some of his parishioners to attend an upcoming meeting on fostering. At the meeting, he got “intimate face-to-face information,” he said, and it “broke down the walls.” Council members learned that foster parents won’t have to shelter a lot of kids at one time or even for a long duration. “If you want one (foster kid), you get one,” Alty said. Sometimes, kids only need a roof over their heads for a week or a night. Sometimes, licensed foster parents can take care of foster kids for a few hours so their actual foster parents can get some respite. “It is emergency aid,” said council member Ruth Handley. Since its launch, a few families have shown interest, Canary said. He asked council members to see if their pastors will just talk about it one day in a month. “You have to convince the preacher that this is not a load on them, it is a blessing,” Handley said. 111 Project stands for One Church, One Family, One Purpose. The 111 Project began in Oklahoma in April 2011 as a “response to the urgent need for more foster homes and families for the thousands of Oklahoma children in crisis.” “Oklahoma state leaders, private partners, and the local faith community came together in an effort to find an effective solution for this great need. Since those early days, their efforts have seen remarkable success,” the 111 Project Florida web site states. For information, call 111 Project Florida co-founder Missy Albritton at 863-781-0306; email firstname.lastname@example.org, go to www.111project.org/florida The 111 Project began in Oklahoma in April of 2011 as a response to the urgent need for more foster homes and families for the thousands of Oklahoma children in crisis. Oklahoma state leaders, private partners, and the local faith community came together in an effort to find an effective solution for this great need. Since those early days, their efforts have seen remarkable success. 111 Project Florida hopes to build on that success. Born out of the hope-filled belief that if every church will commit at least one family for one purpose, we will leave no child without a family, 111 Project Florida works in and through the local church to recruit foster and adoptive families and bring awareness to this growing issue. While these efforts are beginning in Hardee, Highlands and Polk Counties, 111 Project Florida hopes to one day introduce new church leaders and families all across Florida to the very real need for more and better foster and adoptive families in our state. Through growing relationships within the faith community and a rich partnership with Heartland for Children, 111 Project Florida is bridging the gap between people of faith and those who are most vulnerable in our community. Together, we can leave no Florida child without a family.