Story by Nadra Kareem Nittle —
When Journey Church Executive Pastor Bob Griffith met with officials of Kenosha County, Wisconsin, five years ago, he didn’t know the encounter would prove life changing. As the pastor who oversees outreach, Griffith asked the leaders if the community had any needs the church could fill. “They said foster care was at the top of their list,” he recalls.
The opioid epidemic had left many Kenosha County parents unable to care for their kids, but not enough foster homes were available for these vulnerable children. So, Griffith got his congregation involved, taking the lead by inviting three foster children into his home. Other Journey pastors also became foster parents, and the laypeople followed suit.
Today, Griffith says, 20% of foster families in Kenosha County belong to Journey Church, but getting church members to sign up was just the first step. According to Griffith, who went on to earn a doctorate with a foster care ministry focus, up to half of foster parents nationally quit after their first year.
To boost retention rates, Griffith used a curriculum focusing on the capacity, quality and stability of foster families. The congregation also gave foster parents a boost by providing thank-you notes, meals, prayer, phone calls and even professional services, such as haircuts and accounting work.
And in January, Griffith participated in the launch of a nonprofit called 1HOPE, which serves foster youth through mentorship, character development, advocacy and more. The initiative is a collaboration of churches, civic groups and individuals working to help youth in need.
“That is a mandate for every Christian,” he says. “It doesn’t mean every person should be a foster parent, but everyone in our church can say they have made a commitment to help the orphans in our community.”