Many times, people express interest in helping at-risk families or kids in foster care, but they aren’t necessarily prepared to become a foster parent. In Nebraska, a new partnership is helping connect individuals in the faith community with families that may be struggling in their own community to offer assistance such as furniture and household items or help with rent and other expenses related to raising children.
Last week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that it would expand the use of a software system that helps connect families in need with community churches to help fulfill those needs. CarePortal, a technological platform of The Global Orphan Project, allows caseworkers and other service providers to enter the needs of struggling families into a database that connects to local partner churches. Those church groups then provide those needs for the families, and in some cases help families stay intact, avoiding foster care removals.
The Global Orphan Project, which is based in Kansas City, manages the portal. The installation of CarePortal into states and agencies is funded by foundations, sponsors and church sponsorships. In Nebraska, a grant from the Nebraska Children and Family Foundation and the Snow-Redfern Foundation has helped expand the program in the state, as well as a corporate sponsorship from Exchange Bank.
Nebraska faith-based foster care and family services organization Compass has partnered with DHHS to bring CarePortal to the state.
“Churches help connect the community in a tangible way,” said Jennifer Brantley, public information officer for Nebraska DHHS in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change. “Their involvement is a bridge between individuals (members) who are looking for a real, uncomplicated way to support the families DHHS serves, by allowing those individuals to share resources and goods they may already have access to, to their neighbors who don’t have that same access.”
Families who benefit from CarePortal have some contact with DHHS through Child Protective Services, Economic Assistance, Medicaid or Long-term care.
“Through CarePortal, churches have assisted biological parents in making their homes safer, paid rent and utilities so that a parent could maintain housing and provided needed beds/bedding/appliances so that children could be reunified with parents or able to stay with the parents to prevent a removal,” said Kathleen Stolz, DHHS Service Area administrator in an email.
Since launching CarePortal last year in Kearney, 128 Nebraska children have been helped, according to DHHS. The state currently has 22 active churches that have provided a $45,257 economic impact on Nebraska’s families. The program has now been expanded to Hastings and North Platte with plans to roll out in McCook and Grand Island later this year.
“CarePortal is a life-changing and innovative way to improve the lives of children and families by empowering churches and individuals to engage directly with the child welfare system,” shared Nebraska First Lady Susanne Shore, in a statement of support for the expansion. “It’s so encouraging to see so many great people and organizations … work together to bridge communities and connect Nebraskans to help families stay together and thrive.”
So far, Nebraska is among the 15 states that have introduced CarePortal to help meet the needs of struggling families.