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By: Tony Moreland, Contributed Article

As of this week, there are 23 children in foster care in Dade County and only seven foster homes for them to go to. How can that be in a community such as ours with the vast majority of its people proclaiming to be Christian?

Savannah’s Canopy is a ministry that provides needed services to foster children, adoptive children, foster parents, adoptive parents and those families that have been in the foster care system or might enter it without intervention. The scriptures teach us in James 1:27 the following: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

In order to keep children who reside in Dade County in foster care in Dade County, we must have the community resources in Dade County to do so. If not those children are sent to other counties or to group homes. There is a huge need for local foster homes and support to foster families/children in order for children to remain in our county.

The following are current needs for foster children in Dade County:

Foster homes. We have 23 children in foster care as this article is written and only seven foster homes to put them in. It doesn’t matter if you can care for infants, toddlers, young children, or teens; there is a need for you. Maybe you think you are too old to care for an infant for many years, but you could care for a teen for a few. You might not want to change diapers, but would consider an older child. Maybe you have a calling to a child with developmental issues. Maybe you could take a sibling group of two, three, four or more children to keep them together and not split apart. There is so much need.

A positive message to the community about being a foster parent. Due to the recent tragedy of the deaths of children in the custody of DFCS, or of children that have been returned home, potential foster parents are wary of becoming a foster parent. Please contact us. It is true that some terrible things happen in the world, but these are the exceptions and not the rule. We need to keep our children in our county.

Volunteers to undergo criminal background checks in order to be able to provide childcare services for foster parents to attend required training and to just have a respite at times. The childcare can be provided in the foster home, church, or public facility. By policy, children in foster care cannot be under the care of any individual who has not undergone criminal background checks. In order to spend time in the home of another family/community member, the home must undergo a home evaluation. 

A prepared meal for a foster family is needed and appreciated at times due to the strenuous schedule of children in foster care. Children in foster care have many appointments with physicians, counselors, and visits with parents. Not to mention all the ball games, practices and events that all children want to go to. Foster parents have the responsibility of keeping these appointments and making sure the children attend.

Clothing and care items. Foster parents receive a small rate per day (per diem) to meet the needs of children. This rate is not sufficient to meet the needs for clothing and supplies. When children enter foster care, the foster parents do not receive a monthly check until after the child has been in their home for one to two months. Sometimes they need help with finances in the interim. Sometimes they need a new bedroom added or need to divide a room up for multiple children. You could help with the labor, or maybe some of the cost. Also needed are new underwear, socks, and a new outfit of clothing and pjs for at least one night.  Many times children are removed from dangerous situations with only the clothes on their back. It is very important for the child to have something new that belongs only to them.

Money and time. Unfortunately, many times, foster care is a band aid for a much larger issue. Sometimes an intervention prior to the children being taken or after they have been returned can keep them with their family. We all hear the horror stories, but the fact is that most children will be returned home to their birth family.We need to help them both before and after placement to insure the safety of the kids and to stabilize the family.

Churches and civic organizations to make this a priority. In the 25th Chapter of Mathew is a story about how we will be divided into two groups, the Sheep and the Goats. The sheep represent those who shall be granted eternal lives and the goats those who shall be sent to hell. The following is a short paraphrase of that story as told by Jesus:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

The King will reply, Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these; you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Please be a sheep and not a goat. If you can help in anyway, contact Tony Moreland with Savannah’s Canopy at (706) 657-8241, or you can email him at “The least of these” is waiting for an invitation in, maybe some food or drink, or perhaps to be clothed. Maybe they are sick and need you to help them. Please get involved with this important work.

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