One Church One Child takes lead in recruiting foster, adoptive parents
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
As head of a board of volunteers responsible for recruiting adoptive parents and finding homes for foster children, Kimberly Thomas takes her role very personally.
That much was obvious by the emotion she showed when she had to explain why One Church One Child is important in the process of finding homes – foster or adoptive – for children in areas surrounding Tallahassee.
“Any time a child is able to find a forever home and family that’s given them some stability and normalcy, it a dramatic change,” Thomas said recently. “If we had more people to step up, even offering foster care for some of these children to come into a home instead of being in a group environment that’s awesome.
“That’s a dramatic change because now they can feel the love; somebody cares and took the time to offer a part of their life.”
Six of those parents who have opened up their homes will be honored on Jan. 20, when One Church One Child hosts a black tie gala at the Civic Center. The event will feature a live band, silent auction and dinner.
The event is part of the organization’s effort to bring awareness to the need to find homes for children – most coming from dysfunctional homes. In some cases, the children don’t have either of their parents or their parents are unable to providing proper living conditions.
The situation caught the attention of former Gov. Bob Martinez soon after he was elected in 1986. He eventually got the legislature to pass the One Church One Child Corporation Act in 1990, adopting a concept that was founded by Catholic priest Father George Clements 10 years earlier in Chicago.
Clements started the One Church One Child organization by approaching Black churches to take the lead in getting their congregations members to become foster or adoptive parents. The concept is now being practiced in several states throughout the country.
Martinez appointed Rev. R.B. Holmes, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, as the first president of the organization in Florida. He served 10 years as president but has remained a driving force for the organization.
“To adopt children you’ve got to have a heart of compassion,” said Holmes, himself an adoptive parent. “It’s a commitment. I take my hat off to people who adopt children. Anytime you’re adopting children, it’s a blessing but it’s a challenge.
“When you are adopting children from foster care they come through some challenges within their families.”
That in part is the reason that foster or adoptive parents are vetted before they could bring a child into their families. Through the organization headed by Thomas, parents are referred to the Children and Families agency for placement. Community Based Care providers are also involved in the evaluation process.
Once parents are cleared, they are given some financial assistance from the government. The churches also participate in mentoring and providing services for the wellbeing of the children, Thomas said.
“The word tells us that we are supposed to care for the orphans so this is to make sure they are taken care of,” she said.
The area covered by the local circuit of One Church One Child includes Leon, Gadsden, Franklin, Liberty and Jefferson counties. At least 183 churches in those counties are participating in the recruiting process.
Throughout those counties and the rest of the state, there are at least 800 children in the system that are waiting for homes, Thomas said. Many of the children are Black and are over 5 years old, including some who are part of sibling groups that would like to stay together or they have special needs.
The program isn’t limited to married couples, Thomas said, “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “You still have something you can offer to the children. There is no stipulation on whether you have to be married or single, or what your socioeconomic status is. Of course, we want you to be able to provide for the children but if you want to foster or adopt I think you should just look into it.”