Local Ministries

New ministry offers multiple ways to help kids in foster care

Foster parents Ray (second from left) and Brandi Martin (second from right), along with their children, attend the Foster Appreciation Mass at Holy Trinity in Lenexa. The family brought up the gifts during Mass. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

LENEXA — “Currently in the United States, there are over 400,000 children in foster care,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at the first Foster Appreciation Mass in the archdiocese held May 2 at Holy Trinity Church here.

“And in the state of Kansas,” he added, “there are over 7,500 children in foster care, but only about 2,000 licensed foster care families.”

The solution to these statistics is twofold — more foster families are needed, and more support is needed for families who choose the challenging but rewarding ministry of foster care.

“I think we as a church are called to be part of the solution for these children who are important members of our community,” said the archbishop.

Archbishop Naumann celebrated a Foster Appreciation Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Lenexa on May 2. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Foster care falls under the umbrella of the archdiocesan pro-life office. As Catholics encourage and support mothers in choosing life, they also need to support both mother and child so they can thrive in that life.

That is a goal Archbishop Naumann has had for a long time — and one that the pro-life ministry and several parishes, led by Holy Trinity, are trying to address.

“We launched this foster care ministry to the whole archdiocese,” said lead consultant for the pro-life office Debra Niesen. “Holy Trinity ran with it.”

Every day in Kansas, children are removed from their homes because the adults in their lives are not able to care for them.

“Each of these children is a unique gift from God with their own hopes and dreams,” said Niesen. “They need to be with a family who will love and protect them until it’s time for them to return home again.”

With over 7,500 children in foster care in Kansas, but only about 2,000 licensed foster care families, the pro-life office for the archdiocese hopes Catholics will step up to help in a variety of ways. For PHOTO BY KELLI MCCLINTOCK/UNSPLASH

Niesen knows when people hear of the need for foster care, they often want to do something to help but don’t feel they’re being called to foster.

“We want people to know there are so many ways that we as a parish can assist,” she said. “Maybe not [by] fostering the children, but [by] helping the families who have chosen to foster.”

As several Holy Trinity parishioners are making the decision to become foster families, other parishioners are joining in communities of support for those families.

“In the foster ministry area,” said Holy Trinity parishioner John Errante, “what we’re doing now is we’ve created these care communities.

“We’re trying to put six to ten people around the family who is fostering,” he said.

Care communities will pray for the foster family, as well as provide support by preparing a meal, providing transportation, donating clothing, spending time with the children, babysitting, tutoring or playing.

“So that [kind of support] requires just a background check,” said Errante. “Teams will have a leader that checks in with the family to see what the needs might be and then coordinates the activity of the care community.”

Families can help foster children in a variety of ways, including acting as a support system for families who foster. PHOTO BY BENJAMIN MANLEY/UNSPLASH

Holy Trinity Parish hopes to have two care teams set up by the end of May.

“We hope what Holy Trinity has done will be a model for other parishes,” said Archbishop Naumann.

Ideally, every parish in the archdiocese will find families willing to provide loving care for children needing a foster family, especially when they know they will be supported by their Catholic community.

“For them to do this beautiful but challenging work,” said Archbishop Naumann, “our parishes need to be communities that surround them with support and love.

“All of us can pray for them, but also in our prayers ask the Lord, ‘What can I practically do to help these families live out this vocation of heroic love?’”

Get involved

To find out how your parish can become part of the foster care ministry, go online to: archkcks.com/foster.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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