Addressing the needs of area foster parents, children and orphans is a pressing matter that will continue to become more urgent without community support, according to the Johnson County Churches Foster/Orphan Care Coalition.
Orphan Hope International estimates there are likely more than 210 million orphans worldwide, with 5,760 more children becoming orphans each day. Studies show that 10-15 percent of orphans commit suicide before adulthood, while 60 percent of females become prostitutes and 70 percent of males become criminals.
But for the 170 children from Johnson County in foster care, those statistics don’t have to be reality.
The coalition aims to bring awareness — not only to those called to foster or adopt — but also those who may be able to provide help in other ways.
“Foster care parents burn out,” said Tammy King, Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center executive director. “[They say it’s because] of a lack of resources and the feeling of alienation and kind of being there by yourself. Not all people are going to be called to foster or adopt but everyone can help. Someone can help shop for new clothes or sheets for that bedroom ... anything the child might need as an addition to the family.”
Sunday is “Orphan Sunday” during which many Johnson County church officials plan to help congregations understand the numerous ways they can support foster or adoptable children and their families, King said.
“There are 1,000 ways that churches can get involved,” she said. “They can help run events like our [Nov. 9] expo event. There are just so many ways that people can help.”
Following Orphan Sunday, the coalition plans to host the second annual Foster/Orphan Care Expo from 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 9 at Field Street Baptist Church, 201 N. Field St. in Cleburne.
Foster care agencies will present information on how to enter the foster care process or, for those who can’t foster or adopt, learn more about respite care. There will also be a panel of speakers including children who went through the foster process, adoptive parents and Dr. Roger Doss, who earned his doctorate in child counseling from the University of North Texas.
“This year on the panel, we have a young man who [Child Protective Services] maintained a permanent managing conservatorship, which means the state retained the parental rights,” King said. “He was never released for adoption and aged out of foster care. He ran away from his foster parents for a period of time and he came back because they were the only constant. Now that he is 18 he has filed to have his name changed.
“He is going to speak about the importance of having a family and a family name. Nov. 22 his last name changes officially.”
There will also be a mother speaking about losing custody of her children and gaining her rights back, something which King said is the most positive outcome when children are turned over to CPS.
Local mom Cindy Tipton, who has one birth son and two adopted sons from Russia, said the first expo last year was an eye-opener, considering the coalition expected maybe eight couples and more than 50 people showed up.
“Our initiative there is awareness,” Tipton said. “To make people aware that these kids need homes and they need to be in Johnson County.
“There are so many kids in Johnson County especially in the foster care system that have been taken out of terrible situations. Not only are they removed from that situation, but because Johnson County doesn’t have enough foster homes, they are being jerked up from their school and friends an taken to other counties where there are foster homes.”
Because she’s been there, Tipton said, she understands what frustrations foster and adoptive parents can go through. For example, foster parents can’t leave their children with just “any” caregiver. They have to be trained in respite care and aware of what challenges some foster children go through, whether they be recovering from mental, physical or sexual abuse or if they are faced with physical limitations.
“There are very specific requirements in regard to making sure that anybody who will provide care has to have a certain amount of training to be able to provide baby-sitting services or whatever for them,” King said. “What it does is create a challenge for foster parents who say they need a break and can’t get a break. There’s a 65 percent loss of foster parents within the first year and a half.”
For more information or resources on Orphan Sunday, visit orphansunday.org. For assistance obtaining materials, contact the advocacy center at 817-558-1599.