WACO—Texas Baptists (Baptist General Convention of Texas) launched a new, faith-based initiative aimed at improving the state’s foster care crisis during its annual meeting on Monday, Nov. 18, in Waco. The initiative represents a collaborative effort between multiple state and national Baptist entities who have committed to a multi-year effort to educate, equip and engage Texas Baptist churches and families to make a positive impact in the lives of vulnerable children.
Texas Baptists Executive Director Hardage, during the Monday evening launch, shared a proclamation from Texas Governor Greg Abbott affirming the new initiative. “I commend Faith Fosters Texas for its mission to transform the lives of vulnerable children and to work with local churches to positively impact their communities through engagement centered on foster children and their families,” Abbott said.
Coalition members include Buckner International, Children At Heart Ministries, STARRY, STCH Ministries, Texas Baptists, Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Coalition members are also working with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The initiative will be led by David Ummel, church and network relations for Faith Fosters Texas at Buckner International.
Ummel emphasized a state-wide goal of 540 churches participating in Faith Fosters Texas. The three main objectives are to educate and equip the church to fulfill the biblical mandate of caring for vulnerable children and families, to engage churches to embrace and support children in foster care, and to leverage resources to make a positive macro-impact on foster care.
“Our Texas Baptists churches have got to get involved in this,” said Ummel. “We want to impact the child maltreatment rate on a state-level, not just a regional level. We have to be able to have an impact on the number of children waiting for adoption. We have to care for kids who they can’t find placement for. We have to wrap-up around families who are willing to participate in that. Everyone can do something. Where else would God want us to be than right here?”
Texas Baptist churches can register online at faithfosterstexas.org and receive access to resources, including a guide to create a Ministry Action Plan and access to information on regional support ministries.
Messengers to the Annual Meeting also passed a resolution Tuesday morning on helping vulnerable children in Texas. The resolution states in part “that the messengers to the 2019 annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in Waco encourage Texas Baptist churches to engage in the Faith Fosters Texas initiative.”
Faith Fosters Texas is the realization of a vision cast by Texas Baptists Executive Director David Hardage earlier last year. At that time, Texas Baptists hosted a Foster Care Summit with agency leaders and churches engaged in providing foster care resources and caring for foster families to collaborate for a bigger impact. Now, with a unified focus and dedicated staff member leading the charge, Faith Fosters Texas aims to leverage resources to make a positive macro-impact on foster care in Texas.
“Faith Fosters Texas is the place where Texas Baptists can change the future of our most vulnerable children and provide homes for every abandoned, neglected or abused child in the child welfare system.”
David Hardage, Executive Director, Texas Baptists
“Texas Baptists now have the opportunity and mandate to engage in one of the greatest needs of our times: The opportunity to respond to the Texas foster care crisis by caring for children who’ve been neglected, abused or abandoned and the mandate to fulfill James 1:27.”
Albert Reyes, President and CEO, Buckner International
“Children At Heart Ministries and STARRY are excited to be part of this historic Faith Fosters Texas initiative. Meeting the needs of families in crisis is in our ministries’ DNA. The opportunity to link arms with the faith community and other top organizations across Texas is a significant step towards ending the foster care crisis in our own backyard. We have worked diligently to develop a roadmap for Texas churches to utilize the strengths and talents of their congregations to forever change the lives of abused and neglected children; all through an eternal lens. Every church can do something, and we are asking the believers of Texas to stand with the children.”
Todd L. Roberson, President and CEO, Children At Heart Ministries
Nita Riggins, Director of Foster Care Services, STARRY
“I am excited to be a partner of the Faith Fosters Texas initiative. The faith-based community is key in meeting the needs of children and families in our state. We not only need to see new families willing to serve but we also need to work to ensure that those currently serving are being supported.”
Eron Green, President and CEO, STCH Ministries