In the November issue of The Good News, Dee West introduced us to the Foster Support Faith Alliance (FSFA), a ministry of Seattle Union Gospel Mission addressing homelessness by supporting foster care. Continuing that introduction, the FSFA explains how foster care is supported by churches in our region.
The Foster Support Faith Alliance (FSFA) is divided up regionally into individual Local Networks, comprised of churches, support agencies and community volunteers from that specific community. Currently we have six networks: KingSouth, KingWest, KingEast, West Seattle, Lynnwood and Everett. (We hope to start the MLK local network in winter 2018.) These local networks meet with representatives from the DSHS Children’s Administration and other support agencies, to hear what the foster care needs are within their own community. They then discuss which needs churches/volunteers might be able to meet either individually or collectively.
Currently we have over 60 churches actively involved throughout King and Snohomish Counties, leaders from all 6 Children’s Administration offices, and more than 20 foster support agencies. (The FSFA has a mailing list of over 400 people who are interested in foster care support.)
Our local Networks of churches are already being seen as a catalyst for change in a broken system. They have been showing support and creating relationships with their local DSHS Children’s Administration office in the following ways:
- Creating, maintaining and stocking donation closets at each DSHS office that will provide clothing and supplies for children when they first come into care, often with nothing. Our networks have done this in 5 DSHS offices so far.
- Establishing, coordinating and recruiting volunteers for Office Moms and Dads programs in each DSHS office. This program is a volunteer opportunity for congregation members to sit with and entertain children when they first come into foster care and are awaiting placement. By the end of 2018 we’ll have this program up and running in 7 DSHS offices in King and Snohomish counties.
- Hosting appreciation events for DSHS office staff in an effort to boost morale. FSFA networks host an average of 20 appreciation events each year.
The FSFA provides support to foster families and children in a variety of ways:
- Churches supporting foster parents by hosting free childcare opportunities (our goal is for each region to host these on a regular basis by the end of 2018).
- Churches hosting foster parent support groups.
- Churches hosting guest-speakers for the recruitment of more foster homes within their congregations.
- Churches providing wrap-around services for foster families within their church community.
- Churches serving the Children’s Administration by helping with their annual foster parent appreciation picnic, holiday gift drives, and school supply drives.
Our capstone event each spring is the BRAVE event: a one-day catalytic event for girls age 12-18 who are or have been in Foster Care. The purpose of the Brave event is to encourage these girls to dream big dreams for what their futures can be and to realize that they are valuable and lovable, in an effort to equip them with the confidence needed to resist sexual coercion and avoid homelessness.
Girls hear from keynote speaker Lisa Barnes, a former foster child who lived in 37 different foster homes growing up. Lisa tells of being a 12-year-old foster child with a bio mom who was addicted to drugs, and that if she could go back and tell her 12-year-old self one thing it would be “You’re not alone.”
One outcome of this event is that girls can choose to be matched up with an adult who will maintain contact with them — someone who desires to show them that life can be different than what they’ve known.
It’s the hope of the Foster Support Faith Alliance that the church would come to be seen as a catalyst for Christ’s healing in a foster care system that is full of brokenness. In seeking to support all parties involved in foster care, we hope to see fewer foster children facing homelessness in their futures.