by Moira Cullings
LEAWOOD — Foster families have opened their homes to children in need.
This Respect Life Month, the archdiocesan Foster Care Task Force wanted to do something special for them.
“Every day in Kansas, children, through no fault of their own, have to be removed from their homes for their safety and well-being,” said Debra Niesen, archdiocesan consultant for the pro-life office.
“The church needs to raise up and support the couples and families who open their hearts and homes to love and care for these precious kids until it is safe for them to return home,” she added.
The archdiocese hosted a Foster Family Appreciation Mass and Respite Night on Oct. 8 at Church of the Nativity in Leawood.
The evening began with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Nativity pastor Father Michael Hawken. Couples were then treated to a Garozzo’s dinner while their children played at a carnival and bouncy house in the school gym and enjoyed Chick-fil-A.
It’s one of many efforts Nativity has made to encourage and care for foster families.
Susie Boster, a member of the archdiocesan Foster Care Task Force, launched Nativity’s foster care ministry in 2020.
“Our main mission is to inform parishioners about what’s going on in our own neighborhood,” said Boster. “In Johnson County alone, there’s over 500 children in foster care.
“And I think people are shocked when they hear that.”
Boster noted that “there simply are not enough homes” for foster children.
“If Christ’s people don’t open their homes,” she asked, “then who will?”
Nativity connects parishioners interested in fostering to the appropriate agencies so they can begin the process.
“Some people are called to foster or do respite care,” said Boster. “Some people might be called to mentor a teenager.”
Boster said that youth who exit foster care without a family are more likely to face problems with addiction, incarceration, poverty and unplanned pregnancy.
Mentors can make a big difference in their lives, she said.
For those who want to help out in a smaller way, the foster care ministry pairs multiple parishioners up with a foster family to support them with child care, meals, prayers, tutoring and more.
The ministry has also held drives for items like backpacks, school supplies and hygiene products.
Answering the call
During his homily at the foster care appreciation Mass, Archbishop Naumann spoke about how critical the pro-life ministry is in the archdiocese, which focuses on protecting both the unborn but also youth in need.
“Kansas, [like] most states, has some pretty significant struggles with the foster care program,” he said. “We don’t have enough foster parents.
“And I think our church really needs to be part of the solution.”
Archbishop Naumann expressed his hope that eventually every parish in the archdiocese will have at least one foster family — and that larger parishes will have multiple.
Couples like Lauren and Sam Walton, parishioners at Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, are answering that call.
The Waltons have been unable to conceive since they married in 2017 and are in the process of becoming foster parents.
They were inspired by Lauren’s sister and her husband, who have been foster parents themselves.
“They have three kids of their own — they fostered and then ended up adopting,” said Sam. “We saw firsthand that this looks great.
“And we still want kids. It became our avenue of actually doing it.”
“We’ve been ready to be parents for a while,” said Lauren. “We have the space in our home and the time in our lives to do it.
“We’re excited to feel the purpose in the evenings.”
Boster, who has done respite care and short-term placements with her husband, and has adopted children, has seen firsthand how many young people can benefit from a faith-filled home.
“They are in dire need of a safe and loving place to be for a while,” she said. “It’s our opportunity to see Jesus in them and welcome these children and love them in the time that we have them.”
For more information on foster care in the archdiocese, go online to: archkcks.com/foster. To learn more about Nativity’s foster care ministry, visit the website at: kcnativity.org/foster-care-ministry.