The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a motion today that calls for the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to develop a coordinated faith-based engagement strategy.
The motion — filed by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis — recognizes that “faith-based groups have long been an important force in supporting the needs of their local community, providing compassion and dedication while also offering tangible resources.” And it makes the case for “robust and targeted coordination with faith-based communities [which] will provide the county with meaningful and sustainable solutions to recruit resource families and expand additional supports for vulnerable children and families.”
For 15 years, our motto at All Saints Church in Pasadena has been “foster kids are our kids,” and countless volunteers have given untold hours toward the goal of improving and enhancing the lives of our children who are in foster care. From Christmas and birthday gift programs to sending kids to Dodgers games, art shows showcasing the work of kids in foster care and back-to-school shopping sprees, members and friends of All Saints Church have received as much as they have given by supporting the needs of these most vulnerable of our children.
Theologian Fredrick Buechner famously said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” At All Saints Church in Pasadena we believe that one of the places God calls us to is to meet the deep hunger of children who need hope, love and support. And it has been our deep gladness over these last 15 years to work in partnership with agencies serving their needs.
Over those years our Foster Care Project has recognized that establishing good relationships with agencies serving foster youth is key to successful programs — and so we applaud this motion to expand and systematize what our experience has taught us.
What we know from that lived experience is that children and young people benefit from the services of tutors and mentors, from new experiences, and most of all, from knowing that somebody cares about them — and who cares enough to buy them a present, take them shopping or tutor them in math. And we know that All Saints members benefit as well through the transformative experience of having contact with these children and young people.
One opportunity for faith communities to serve is by establishing relationships with agencies that recruit and train foster parents and hosting events at their facility for those interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent or adopting a child. Another is raising money for scholarships for DCFS’ annual celebration of all the foster youth who graduate from high school each year.
The needs are great, but the rewards are even greater. The enhanced collaboration between faith-based communities and DCFS proposed by this motion will benefit the children served, the agencies, and the members of the faith-based community who volunteer their time and give of their resources. Together we can and will continue to make a difference in the lives of these children who are our children.
Susan Russell is senior associate of All Saints Church, which is located in Pasadena. The church’s Foster Care Project provides community education, public policy/advocacy and direct services for children and youth who have been removed from the care of their parents to the supervision of the state.
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