'The Beautiful Thing': Churches and Faith-Based Groups Respond to Growing Numbers of Foster Children
- Foster providers like Grand Rapids based
Bethany Christian Servicessay the opioid epidemic
has created a desperateneed for more foster homes
and they are working overtimeto recruit foster parents.
- It's the largest driver right now
in the United States for foster care.
- [Heather] Scenes likethis are all too common.
A four-year-old trapped in a car.
His grandmother and herboyfriend passed out
Victims of an opioid epidemic
that kills more than 100 people every day.
Their children and thechildren of those addicted
need temporary and often permanent homes.
It's why the race is on
to recruit more fosterparents like Matt and Liz.
- The more we started talking about it
and we kind of thought, gosh,maybe this is just God's way
of telling us that this is thedirection that we should go.
- [Heather] In following that direction,
Matt and Liz have welcomedthree foster children
into their home anddeveloped a heart for kids
with special needs.
- It only takes us probably, I don't know,
maybe a few weeks with the kids
before you feel solelyresponsible for them
and feel like I have to doeverything I can for these kids
because, you know, at the end of the day,
they are sleeping in our home
and they're a part of our family
for as long as they're here.
It's so important thatthey have those parents
that are going to fight for them.
- [Heather] Unfortunately,more and more do not have that.
In Ohio alone, kids in foster care
double the number of licensed parents.
Nationwide, the foster careneed has risen 10% since 2012.
And while the opioid epidemicstarted out in rural America,
it has now spread into suburbs and cities,
creating even more demand.
- Really, it's a drug thatdoes not discriminate,
and so it's really everywhere.
- [Heather] In overseeingthe program's foster parents,
Cheri Williams must prepare them
for children who have suffered,
often at the hands ofdrug-addicted parents
who didn't feed, clothe, or protect them.
- Trauma is not always the overt abuse,
physical abuse, sexualabuse, things of that nature.
Trauma is also neglect.
And so while some childrenfrom an opioid home
may have endured outward,overt physical or sexual abuse,
many of them have experiencedthe neglect aspect.
- [Heather] And for many children,
that neglect startsbefore they're even born.
Addicted at birth, theymust go through withdrawal,
and then, into the arms offoster parents like Bob and Sue.
- Majority of our babies are from mothers
that were on drugs during pregnancy.
And you know, I don't see the worst of it
'cause it's when they're in the hospital
going through withdrawals,but then you see, you know,
as the months come alongand how behind they are.
- [Heather] Speech delays,eating problems, social issues.
Sue and Bob have seen it all.
They've fostered since 1988.
States have relied heavily for years
on faith based agencies like Bethany
to recruit and retain fosterparents like Sue and Bob.
And now, these groupsare creating new ways
to help hurting kids.
The Global Orphan Projectconnects social workers
Through its CarePortal website,congregations see the needs
of neighborhood families in real time.
Other faith based groupsgo directly to churches
with local foster needs.
Naomi Schaefer Rileyhas studied the trend.
- Going into particularchurches, particular parishes,
congregations, and goingto the pulpit and saying
these are the seven kids in your zip code
who need a home tonight actuallyreally had very big effect.
People were unaware thatthe problem was so local.
- [Heather] Fosterparents like Matt and Liz
don't seek recognition or fame,
and Bob and Sue even face resistance
from friends concerned about their age.
But there are no plans to quit.
- I plan on doing it untilmy health won't let me,
when I can't keep up with them anymore.
- [Heather] It's a sacrificethat means everything
to children whose livesdepend on a foster system
that cannot keep up with demand.
Reporting in Grand Rapids, Michigan,
Heather Sells, CBN News.