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Foster care needs families supporting families

Multiply Church in Flowery Branch, Ga., hosted a date night for foster parents on behalf of Families 4 Families. Volunteers, pictured, included church members as well as students from Truett-McConnell University. Photo from Families 4 Families

LOGANVILLE, Ga. (BP) – There are around 12,000 foster children in Georgia alone, said Wayne Naugle, and fewer than 4,600 available homes to take them in. Those are children where neither the math nor the odds are in their favor.

But that’s not the way it has to be.

“Everybody is called to orphan care. It’s throughout the Old Testament and New Testament,” said Naugle, executive director of Families 4 Families.

While signing up for the training and designation as a foster home is one way to do that, it’s certainly not the only one. Families 4 Families partners with the Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS) to help families foster, but also trains families and churches in how to support foster homes in ways like babysitting, providing meals and even putting together bunk beds.

May is National Foster Care Month, and organizations like Families 4 Families hope awareness will lead to more volunteers in addition to their 50-60 partnering churches and 150 foster families.

The cornerstone for the nondenominational group is a biblical calling to care for orphans through the strength of the Gospel. Naugle’s grandfather was a Southern Baptist pastor, and many of Naugle’s staff members are connected to evangelical churches.

Families 4 Families is based in Loganville, but has extended to seven other locations throughout the state.

“God grabbed our hearts when it came to foster care ministry,” said Kenneth Aycock, who directs the newest location, in Cartersville. Aycock was discipleship and missions pastor at Hopewell Baptist Church in Gainesville in 2017 when Naugle approached him to join.

Families 4 Families is one of approximately 103 child placement agencies that work with DFCS. The opening of the northwest Georgia office came through a request by the state due to the substantial need in the area.

Churches, intuitively, are willing to help, Naugle said. They just need direction.

“We learned that churches may not be aware of the foster situation in Georgia and unsure how to get involved,” he said. “We want them to know there are various ways.”

That information is first presented at the church through an Awareness Event, which can be Naugle sharing his group’s mission on a Sunday morning. A two-hour information session follows at a later date, perhaps on a Sunday night.

From there households pray over whether to enter the foster training process. This includes contact with child protective services and 23 hours of training that addresses areas such as a home study and CPR/first aid safety prior to placement.

Avenues to help don’t have to be as involved as one may think. Cooking a meal for a foster family is always welcome, but gift cards to restaurants are just as appreciated – and perhaps even more so due to their flexibility. And as to the aforementioned bunk bed example, heroes don’t need capes if they wear a toolbelt.   

Aycock’s family was set to begin foster training, but caring for an aging parent in his home shifted those plans. Still, he is active in transporting children to homes and has learned that three car seats can snuggle into the back seat of a Tacoma.

In 2011 Naugle read David Platt’s Radical, and it sent him on a journey toward foster care. He and his family cared for, then adopted, two sisters when they were babies. One is now 11 years old; the other turns 10 next week.

A steady home and material needs are important, but faith is foundational for Families 4 Families.

Partnering churches sign a statement of faith. Each family that goes through the training must provide a signed statement from their pastor testifying to their commitment.

“We are faith-based because we believe every child is going to spend eternity somewhere,” said Naugle. “If these kids don’t hear about Jesus, the only thing we did was delay the abuse. Social work is one of the best platforms for evangelism.”

The odds are steep. However, a single home – or many working together – can become the miracle.

“You can’t change the whole world,” Naugle said, “but you can change the whole world for one child.”