One Church One Child: Providing children a home
By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook
I had the pleasure of interviewing Rev. Al Williams, Deputy Director of One Church One Child (OCOC), for my radio talk show, JUST The Facts, last week. I learned so much more about this wonderful organization that I’m eager to share with families in Tallahassee who can make such a huge difference in a child’s life. Hopefully, more churches will be encouraged to become a partner in connecting children who need a good home with families who want a child to love.
One Church One Child of Florida, Inc. was founded in 1988, and has as its stated mission to “Find one family in each church to adopt or foster one child” of the almost 15,000 children in Florida’s foster care system. Dr. Arie Sailor is the Executive Director. Though minority children make up only 17 percent of Florida’s population, they make up 50 percent of the children waiting for foster or adoptive parents. OCOC works closely with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Big Bend Community Based Care, the child welfare agency for northwest Florida, as it develops partnership agreements with churches for the placement of children with loving foster or adoptive parents.
These children are vulnerable and in great need of a nurturing, caring home environment and foster or adoptive parents who can provide the love that has been missing in their lives. Children end up in foster care due to family crisis. Courts may remove children from birth parents and place them in foster care because of abuse and neglect in the home, or the parent’s incarceration. Other reasons include the illness or death of a parent with no other family members to care for the children; delinquency, truancy, or repeated problems with the child running away; or parents voluntarily giving up their children for adoption. Foster care is intended to be a temporary solution to the crisis while help is provided to the family, relative caregivers are identified, or the child is adopted. However, since infants and younger children are usually the first to be adopted or fostered, older children are often left waiting for a home. Many age out of the system once they become 18 years of age, without ever being placed in a temporary or permanent home. With little or no preparation for taking care of themselves, they are expected to live independently without the skills or support system to be successful. This is a real gap in the system requiring the whole community’s attention and not just churches.
State grants are needed to support organizations willing to step up and provide gap services for children who have suffered so much already during their childhood to be successful when they leave the foster care system. There should be independent living programs for these emancipated teens to provide temporary low cost housing with job training, trade, apprenticeship, and job placement components for up to at least a year. Mentoring is a key element of the foster care and One Church One Child programs, and should continue as these young people are emancipated and prepare for life on their own.
Florida and the children served benefit greatly from the One Church One Child Program that provides a link between the foster care system to safe, nurturing, loving homes and families for children who desperately need them. However, for the children who leave foster care without being fostered or adopted, there is still much work for our community to do. If you or your church would like to help, please call 850-414-5620.
Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.