Before 2009, the number of children in Arizona’s foster care system hovered between 6,000 and 9,000. “That’s unacceptable, but it was consistently normal for us,” said Katie O’Dell, executive director for the Christian foster care and adoption organization Arizona 1.27.
“Foster family shortages stretch existing homes thin,” a Massachusetts news outlet reported. A Florida news station reported: “Foster kids kept in cars at Wawa parking lot in Hillsborough County.” In Kansas, a headline read: “Report of Missing Children Latest Concern.”
The headlines pressed urgency onto a growing movement. In the early 2010s, churches from Colorado to Florida to Arizona to Washington D.C. had begun to band together to recruit and support foster and adoptive families.
The movement would not have been easy to predict. While Christian families had been fostering children for “decades and decades,” the church didn’t have a large or consistent presence in the foster care world, Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) national director of foster care initiatives Jason Weber said.
“We’ve come full circle, from a world in which the church would kind of sit back and sometimes be critical of the state and talk about all the ways they’re falling short to a different approach of humility,” he said. “Churches are saying, ‘Man, we were supposed to be at this party a long time ago. We’re here now. How can we help?’”
“It’s really exciting,” CAFO president Jedd Medefind said. “In a world where there’s so much bad news, this is one place where you really see the church stepping up to be what you hope the church will be.”
That wasn’t dumb luck. Many Christian families and circles had been preparing for decades, long before the first headline. They just didn’t know it.