The Lenhart Family

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the giant in YOUR backyard... foster care

“Let me introduce you to the giant standing in YOUR backyard…”

The last few days, the fatherless of our society has really been on my heart. On Thursday night, a friend and I attended a dinner/ informational meeting sponsored by DHS and the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. The “Change a Child's Forever” campaign hosted a community meeting to discuss how faith congregations can become involved in foster care ministries. As a foster parent and a disciple of Jesus, I was challenged by what I heard and learned to do more. Let me introduce you to the giant (named OKDHS) in YOUR own backyard….

•114,492 children were reported as alleged victims of abuse and neglect in the state of Oklahoma last year alone

• 11,714 of those children were confirmed to be victims of child abuse and neglect last year

• In 2008, there were over 11,000 children in foster care in the state of Oklahoma and over 40% of those children were under the age of 4.

• In Oklahoma county, there are 1,685 children in DHS custody and ONLY 300 foster care homes (“the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” Matthew 9:37)

• 60% of confirmed victims of abuse are 6 years old and younger (in OK)

• 64% are white, 17.6% black, and 16.8% Indian (in OK)

• The perpetrator of abuse is usually mom (45%) or dad (30%)- 75% of all cases (in OK)

• The type of abuse in Oklahoma can be broken down as follows: Neglect=84%, Physical Abuse= 12%, Sexual Abuse= 4%

• Top 6 reasons for neglect are as follows: substance abuse= 19.17%, threat of harm= 18.9%, failure to protect= 17.7%, exposure to domestic violence = 9.52%, inadequate or dangerous shelter= 9.52%, and lack of supervision= 7.53%

• This means that the typical child in the Oklahoma foster care system is a white 6 year old boy neglected due to parental substance abuse such as meth

As a foster mom, I leave almost every family court date and almost every encounter on my foster baby’s behalf juts completely frustrated and overwhelmed at the brokenness of our system and the ways it seems that these children are falling through the cracks. I kinda feel like David facing Goliath but without even one stone to throw. My heart hurts when I face statistics like those listed above that support the reality that MANY children are part of an epidemic that could be classified as a giant in our own backyard. So where is HOPE in statistics like these?

Throughout scripture, God’s tender heart towards the fatherless and orphaned is a recurring theme. He commands us as believers to care for and defend the poor and fatherless among us (Psalm 82:3, Psalm 10:17-18, Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 5:28, Zechariah 7:9-11, James 1:27). When I first moved to the great state of Oklahoma, I was taken back by the way there seems to be a church on VERY corner. But the way our state is flooded with believers actively involved in local church is where I believe our hope in defeating this giant sized problem can be found!!

Becoming a foster parent is not for everyone… but I believe we all can do something to love on the fatherless among us. Today on father’s day, think about what you can do to serve the giant in your own backyard….

Top 10 Things You Can
Do For A Foster Child:

10. Pray for the children in foster care and their families.

9. Collect birthday gifts for the foster children in your community.

8. Have a baby shower to collect baby essentials.

7. Collect luggage for foster children in transition (most children are forced to use trash bags when they move into new placements, what message does this send about their value and worth?)

6. Create toddler toy boxes.

5. Mentor a foster child.

4. Be an alternate caregiver for a foster family.

3. Contact your local OKDHS foster care specialist about specific needs in your community.

2. Host foster children’s visits with their birth families, support groups for foster parents, free child care nights out, or other events that support foster parents at your facility.

1. Become a foster parent or forever family for a child!!


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