Only 19%…—a percentage that often communicates a profound lack of success, and, in this case, a profound need.
In 2016, Lifeline’s foster care ministry recognized the need for more qualified and trained foster families. Because of a lack of licensed families, Lifeline was only able to place 19% of our foster care referrals in Alabama.
A lack of homes for these children leads to their sleeping in the Department of Human Resources (DHR) office, being placed far away from their biological family, or placed in overcrowded residential homes.
This need drove Lifeline to consider how we can help the church be part of the solution to provide a growing number of safe, loving homes for children in need. Therefore, the foster care ministry has formed a deeper partnership with DHR to increase the number of foster families who are equipped to both care for the children and partner with the birth family.
Tracy Hacker is a DHR foster parent in Alabama, co-leader for Lifeline foster care training, and President of her local foster care association. She sees Lifeline’s transition to deeper partnerships as one that opens doors to impact many more lives for the gospel, including DHR, birth families, and foster families.
She believes that the way Lifeline instills the call to be “the hands and feet of Jesus to social workers and all who are involved in the case” equips families to partner with others in incredibly powerful ways. Tracy’s excitement is contagious as she exclaims, “I truly see the potential for encouragement and support of DHR from our churches and the community. I believe we have seen a tremendous positive change in DHR just from the relationship so far with Lifeline.”
Tracy and her husband have a deep heart for birth family ministry in foster care, and she wants to see others understand that a foster family’s relationship with birth families have an incredible impact on the children in their care as well as the birth family and the foster family. Her desire in Birmingham, AL “is that the agencies we deal with would see foster care a different way than what they are accustomed to. I believe there is MUCH potential [for] . . . the ministry and relationships between birth families and foster parents to continue past the last court date.”
Foster care and developing healthy relationships with birth families is a difficult journey. However, viewing foster care as a circle of ministry with birth families is a unique and gospel-driven perspective, and one that Lifeline’s training and support can help families navigate.
Lifeline will focus on recruiting, training, conducting home studies, post-placement training, and equipping churches to provide support. In addition, Lifeline will be able to support all foster families across the U.S. through continuing education units (CEUs). Tracy believes that the increase in CEUs offered by Lifeline not only equips families with practical and biblically-based direction, they can “possibly increase the network of foster parents in the area and have them find additional resources for support, respite and continuing encouragement.” Lifeline will host a CEU webinar on April 6th for foster families. Any foster family can sign up now!
Although this transition was not an easy decision, there is an air of excitement at the new opportunities Lifeline’s partnership will bring. Tracy’s experience sees this transition as one of training and supporting families so that they can be released to serve families alongside DHR, who need to see the redemptive love of Christ in a tangible way.
Stating that she could not be happier about this transition, Tracy sums up the heart of Lifeline’s fostering ministry when she said, “The foster care journey is not an easy one but when the folks involved are like-minded and truly work for the benefit of the kids in care, the foster care journey can actually be restoration and redemption for a family.”