Gardendale First Baptist Church has long supported their local foster care community. It began when leadership noticed the need for stable homes for children in transition.
“We saw children in our community in crisis situations and we knew we wanted to help,” says Mark Harrison, Gardendale’s Executive Pastor. “When we looked at ways we could help, foster care support stood out as a great way to do it.”
Quickly, their church implemented support for foster care families on multiple levels. Foster parents often receive a call for a child or sibling group arriving the same day. This gives families little time to acquire necessary items, like diapers or specifically-sized clothing. Tracy Hacker, one of Gardendale’s strongest foster care advocates, says this is one area where Gardendale makes a huge impact.
“There has been nothing we’ve needed over the many years of fostering that the church hasn’t provided,” said Tracy. “I’m so thankful for how fostering is supported at Gardendale from the top down… from Pastor Kevin to my Sunday School class.”
This church-wide support is exactly what drew Sam and Amy Harris to the church.
“Our family had not seen foster care up close before, and our friends didn’t understand,” said Amy Harris. “We prayed for support and understanding, and we found it at Gardendale.”
They joined a foster family support group at the church that provides a safe space to share each other’s burdens, process difficult circumstances, and even answer questions about DHR procedures.
“Our heart is to support families who are answering the call to foster parenting, as they’re in the midst of missions and ministry day-in and day-out,” said Harrison.
The church seeks to make children more comfortable, as well, through a buddy system between children with mental or behavioral issues and specially trained church members. They attend services together, special events at church, and kids’ ministry activities. In these ways, they hope to care for the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional needs of their church’s foster community.
Gardendale’s hope is that people in their community realize they can make a difference by fostering parents, as well. They regularly offer training classes at their church, call for whole church response through Orphan Sunday events, and provide new foster parent graduates with a gift card to help them prepare for their first placement. In this way, they repeatedly encourage families to explore their own role in the foster system and ways they support local churches in crisis.
Whether foster parenting or providing diapers, the church body of Gardendale First Baptist prioritizes the needs of local children in crisis, and wraps around them to serve tangibly and meaningfully – and it’s made a difference.
To learn more about how your church can get involved with foster parent and birth parent ministry, visit https://lifelinechild.org/family-restoration/