It’s a cold Saturday morning in Greeley, Colorado. Megan Magel and I sit in her car, waiting for someone to open the back door of Journey Christian Church. Megan’s trunk and backseat are filled with file boxes, snacks, extension cords, and a small sign that reads “Project 1.27 Training.”
The executive pastor, Chadwick Kellenbarger, and his wife and 13-year-old daughter soon arrive. They’re among the 100 or so people gathering this morning to learn more about foster parenting. Nationally, children in foster care total about 440,000—a number that has steadily risen as the opioid epidemic has worsened. About a quarter became eligible for adoption after their parents’ rights were severed. In almost every state, officials report a severe shortage of families to take in these children. Public information campaigns abound. Last year, for instance, state agencies and the federal adoption website AdoptUSKids tried to use the buzz around the Mark Wahlberg movie Instant Family to spark interest in foster care.
These kinds of strategies aren’t terribly effective, but fortunately, another path exists. Faith-based nonprofits like Colorado’s Project 1.27 are training prospective foster parents in what to expect and offering the community support that can be crucial to those who take on this extraordinarily difficult, but vital, task. Project 1.27, which was launched by Robert Gelinas, a pastor, and is now run by Shelly Radic, a foster and adoptive parent, takes its name from the Book of James 1:27: “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” But in the past decade, many churches—large evangelical ones, in particular—have adopted a more strategic approach to caring for the orphan. Pastors are trying to mobilize their congregations to take on this work.
Read more here.