SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas (BP) – The new school year can be especially tumultuous for children in foster care, Union Baptist Church Senior Pastor Jacob Smith learned as the church prayed about the viability of a foster care ministry.
Seeing God affirm the ministry, Smith contacted Journey Road, a new non-profit, nondenominational foster care ministry in Pickton, Texas, to learn current needs. The new school year is a prime time to reach out.
“Journey Road let us know there is kind of a massive uptick in CPS (Child Protective Services) actions that result in foster care placements at the beginning of the school year, which is unsurprising,” Smith told Baptist Press. “These kids are, for the first time in several months, going into a building full of mandatory reporters. Because of that uptick, this became a back-to-school kind of thing.
“These kids are now showing up and they don’t just need basic toiletries and things like that, but they also need basic school supplies to be provided for them. And so that got wrapped up into one ministry.”
Each backpacks contains school supplies, toiletries, a full set of towels, a set of twin sheets, a Bible and information on Union Baptist Church with online access to the Gospel.
Rachel Draper, who founded Journey Road in 2019 with her husband, learned the needs foster care parents and children after she and her husband became foster parents five years ago. A shortage of foster families, support services and resources are prevalent, said Draper, who is actively recruiting churches to help.
“Our foster care system, people say it’s a broken system. Well it’s beyond broken,” Draper said. “There’s just so many gaps in the system. Now, can we work through that? Absolutely.
“But I think it’s going to come down to churches. And I don’t really have any other answers, other than that.”
There were about 407,500 children in foster care in the U.S. in 2020, about 217,000 of whom entered the system that year, according to Kids Count data from the Annie M. Casey Foundation). About 8 in 10 children in foster care in 2020 were placed with families and relatives, as opposed to group homes, the foundation reported.
Union Baptist, a congregation of 29 members, packed 20 starter kits during its Aug. 14 evening church service to donate to Journey Road and plans to donate another 20 at the start of the spring semester.
“Oftentimes, foster kids arrive in their new homes with basically nothing but the shirt on their back. Maybe they have a few possessions. These families also don’t get a lot of advance (notice) before they receive a placement,” Smith said. “There’re times, quite often, when these families will wake up in the morning with a certain number of children or no children, not thinking they’re going to get anymore, and then by the end of the day they’ve got another kid, or three.”
Draper, a nondenominational Christian who feels called to foster ministry, spoke at Brashear Baptist Church in Brashear Aug. 14, encouraging members to support foster care.