Faith

Month of Prayer, Week 1: Keeping families together

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When a child enters foster care, the first goal is always to reunite them with their families as soon as it’s safe to do so. Reunification is a beautiful portrait of the Gospel (Luke 15:11-32), and mirrors the redemption we receive from God. Unfortunately, only half of all children in the foster system are ever reunited with their families, and a third of those return to foster care within three years. This is why it’s also so important to support struggling families before children are ever removed. Every mom and dad should be able to get the help they need to keep their family together.

This week, will you pray with us for:

  • Children who are struggling:  Pray they experience peace and calm, and know they are loved and are able to establish a sense of stability wherever they are
  • Parents who are working to reunite with their children: Pray for strength in what can be a very long and difficult process, and for them to get access to the resources, encouragement, and support they need
  • Foster parents who are caring for children temporarily: Pray for them as they strengthen the child’s relationship with his/her biological family, and for comfort when that child eventually goes home
  • Social workers and organizations working with parents: Pray for wisdom as they make decisions about next steps and resources, compassion as they encounter difficult situations, and strength as their days are often very long
  • Safe Families for Children and other prevention initiatives: Pray for them to be connected with the families who need their support, and for these initiatives to get the volunteers and financial resources they need

Thank you for praying with us!

Interested in learning more about reunification?

Here are some resources and ways you can be involved:

Watch a 4-minute story from a foster dad on how God taught him the importance of loving a child’s biological family:

And here’s a 7-minute video from the Executive Director the national Safe Families for Children network on why prevention work is so important:

 

 

Thank you to Megan Roberts for her help on this blog!

Update: February is Our Month of Prayer (and here’s why we really need it)

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A few years ago someone asked me what my biggest questions was. What’s one of the biggest questions I pose to God? At the time it was, “God, do I need you?” I knew that I needed God in a meta-cosmic sort of way – keep the sun orbiting, help me not get into car crashes- that sort of thing. But I was in a place where I wasn’t necessarily convinced that I needed God to intervene in my day-to-day.

This Evelyn Christenson quote puts to words a thought I’ve been wrestling with: “We work, we pull, we struggle, and we plan until we’re utterly exhausted, but we have forgotten to plug into the source of power. And that source of power is prayer.”

Since I answered that question a couple years ago, I’ve had moments in my life where, without prayer, I pulled, struggled, and planned and got to the point of being exhausted. And I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this (and that I’ll get to that place again).DC127-0045

DC127 has a big vision. We believe God has called us, the churches and his people in Washington, DC, to care for, love, and support every child in foster care and the struggling families at-risk of being separated into care. We could pull, struggle, and plan our little hearts out (and we’ve definitely done that), but if we actually believe that we’re called to this, then we’re carrying out God’s vision. And if that’s true, then we won’t get far unless we admit our need for God and are in tune with how he is moving throughout DC.

We’re marking this February as a month of prayer for the DC127 network around the children in foster care and their families. Every Wednesday we’ll post a blog and send out an email guiding you to pray for different people and pieces involved in the child welfare system. We’ll pray for the young, single mom who is working so hard to keep her family together and feels like she has nowhere to go. We’ll pray for the teenager who has spent years in foster care and been in too many different homes, and we’ll pray he finds a family that he won’t ever leave. And we’ll pray for the system, for the social workers, the therapists, and all those who work in such a tough field every day.

Will you join us next month as we pray?

Brennan Manning wrote that “when we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us.” We’re powerless against making real change in DC for kids in care without Christ. We might be able to make a couple small changes, but I’m talking about real, long-term change where kids don’t wait to be in families and parents stop struggling alone. This is the kind of change I’m waiting for. By admitting and corporately acknowledging that we’re not going anywhere without God, I’m confident God will continue to make something beautiful through us.

I’m excited for February,

-Chelsea, DC127 Director

 

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Crawling out of our comforters

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There was a moment last week when the busy of life began to slow down and I had a second or two to think about an area of my life where I knew God was calling me to step into something new, uncomfortable, and if I’m honest, kind of scary. What I wish I wanted to do was grab the nearest broom as my sword, and the nearest coat as my cape and stand there ready to charge into whatever it was God had for me.

What I actually wanted to do was put on the thickest pair of socks I could find, crawl under my fluffy down comforter and burrow myself into a little hole. (My comforter is especially good for this as it makes a sort of cave)

This isn’t a new feeling to me, and I’d like to think that it’s not a new feeling to humans, which means that you might know that feeling. That feeling when you know you’re being asked to do something new and challenging, but for some reason breathing becomes a little harder and you just wish you had a fluffy down comforter to hide in. I’m sorry, mine is taken.

Maybe for you this was a new job, a new relationship, a new place, a new area of service, a new __________. And maybe you feel this way when you think about foster care, adoption, or getting involved in foster care?

As I’ve been slowly crawling out of my goose-feathered cave, I am actually okay with my reaction. See, what if I had (we had) immediately grabbed our broom-swords and coat-capes? How far would those have taken me (us)? I’ve done that before, too. And those are usually the times I find myself exhausted, burned out, and feeling like a failure, because I thought I could go and do ____________ with my own array of armor.

Brennan Manning has this line in The Ragamuffin Gospel that gets me every time, “When we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us.” When we crawl out from under our comforters and admit that yes, God is calling us to something new and scary and we are going to have to trust Him because we can’t do it on our own, then maybe we can (God leads, we follow) actually go somewhere worth going.

Getting involved in foster care can sometimes be that ________ that drives us under the covers. It’s full of unknowns, time commitments, and big steps. But we take those steps because as of March there are 1,179 kids who need us to. And because we believe that as we recognize our absolute need for Christ and the urgent need to be united for the kids of our city, God will make/has been making/is making something beautiful. And won’t it be beautiful when DC is a city where no child waits for a home?

Foster care: 5 ways to pray

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During Foster Care Awareness Month, we’re encouraging you to find your role in helping children in foster care. Some of you might decide to pursue training to become a foster parent. Some of you may check out one of the many mentoring programs in DC and invest in a child who needs an adult presence. And some of you may long to help but don’t have the capacity right now to be either a foster parent or a mentor. Your role (and everyone’s role) might be to pray.

The system is a complicated and messy one, but we serve a God that sees the inner-workings and knows each child in foster care. And so we pray. Pray because judges need your prayers as they adjudicate for the best interests of the child. Social workers need your prayers as they struggle to give each of their cases the attention they deserve despite being overwhelmed with work. Foster families need your prayers as they open their homes to children who may have experienced much trauma in their young lives. The church needs your prayers as it struggles to be a voice for those who aren’t being heard. Birth families need your prayers as they fight to rebuild their lives. And of course, the children in foster care need your prayers. They need to know they are not forgotten.

So take five minutes today and pray, for the kids, the foster families, the birth families, the system as a whole, and the church.

  • Pray for the kids in foster care. Pray that children will be placed in homes that are a good fit for them, and that their first foster home is their last foster home. Pray that sibling groups would be able to stay together. Pray that every child in foster care would understand that they are uniquely made by God, and that God cares for them. Pray that they will experience the unconditional love of a forever family, whether through reunification or adoption. Pray that they will heal from all past trauma. Pray that they will be able to form healthy attachments to their caregivers. Pray that they would be able to forgive those who have wounded them.
  • Pray for foster families. Pray that more singles and couples would become foster parents. Pray that current foster parents would have the resources they need to tackle the challenges they encounter. Pray that they would have support and understanding from their communities. Pray that they would not lose heart and that they would be diligent in seeking justice for the children in their care. Pray that they would have a positive relationship with the birth parents. Pray that these parents would be able to see these kids as they see their biological children—as gifts from God that deserve to be cared for in the best way possible. Pray that these parents would have the wisdom to discern when to say yes and when to say no to specific placements.
  • Pray for birth families. Pray for reunification. Pray that children in care would be able to return to their families quickly and grow up in a safe and supportive environment. Pray for parents struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Pray that they would be able to complete their recovery programs and that reunification with their children would become a possibility. Pray that they would have a support network to help them make good decisions. And pray that families that are reunified will be strengthened and will remain intact.
  • Pray for the foster care system. Pray that all members of the foster care team will be able to make wise choices and act in the best interests of the children they’re representing. Pray that God’s hand guides the judges who have to make decisions regarding the termination of parental rights. Pray that social workers would experience joy in their work and that they would not grow weary in doing good. Pray that they would take their motivation from the gospel and its ability to do the impossible and transform lives.
  • Pray for the church. Pray that church leaders would engage in the child welfare system. Pray that they would speak to their congregations about the church’s responsibility to care for the orphan. And pray that they would be able to set an example, whether through becoming foster parents themselves or supporting those in their congregation that do. Pray that the Lord would reveal to each member of the church their role in helping children in foster care.

Prayer suggestions compiled from the following sources: 12 prayer requests for children in foster care, Praying for children in foster care, Prayers for foster care children, families, and more, and Foster care prayer guide.

 

Blue Sunday: A day to pray

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a designation in effect since President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed it so in 1983. And the fourth Sunday in April (the 27th, this year) is the day for churches to rally together and intercede for the most vulnerable among us.

Blue Sunday. Inviting churches to set aside time in their services to pray specifically for children who have been abused.

This is the first year there will be more people praying than there are new victims of child abuse in the United States. In 2013, over 6 million children became new victims of child abuse. This year’s Blue Sunday campaign has over 7.4 million people committed to praying for these children. Register your church to pray here.

Along with prayer, there are many ways to be part of the work to prevent child abuse. Part of the effort is helping children have safe, healthy lives, and Child Welfare Information Gateway has an idea to that end for every day of April. We’re nearly through the month, but these suggestions can easily be implemented any month of the year. On its blog, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts offers information on recognizing and reporting child abuse and more ways to get involved in prevention, including playing golf! (The Children’s Trust has organized a fundraiser tournament.) And if you’re particularly prone to advocacy, the Child Welfare League of America offers suggestions for contacting your elected officials and local media to let them know about any community activities you plan.

Finally, as Beth Vo wisely notes in an article for the Citizen-Times, “Preventing child abuse requires that we all recognize and support the hard work of parenting.” Just as parents are encouraged to call out good behavior in their children, make an effort to acknowledge good parenting—by friend or stranger. One compliment can go a long way, and may even give a stressed parent the boost he or she needs to respond to a challenging situation with grace and love instead of anger. And if you know of a family in duress, offer to help—babysit, run errands, or suggest resources.

 

Why the Local Church? Hint: It’s Strategic.

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We’ve been diving deeper into the mission of DC127 this week and posting a blog every day this week (here are our firstsecond, and third posts).  Today our founder, Aaron Graham, talks about why we chose to work through the local church. We are specifically looking for 46 people to invest in DC127 through a monthly donation to help us mobilize and empower the church to recruit and support families. Will you join us?

We often get asked why the church? What is the unique role of local churches in addressing the foster care and adoption crisis in Washington, DC? Why put so much energy in mobilizing churches? It’s a good question, and as with anything, your strategy should be thought out, and well…strategic.

Aaron and his family, Amy, Elijah, and Natalie

Aaron and his family, Amy, Elijah, and Natalie

This is what we want to talk about today: Why is mobilizing local churches strategic in embracing and ensuring the success of every child in foster care? Here are a few reasons:

1) We are called

For us, mobilizing churches is not simply a means to an end, it is an end in itself. The Bible is filled with passages highlighting God’s special concern for the poor, for children, and for the orphan.

Part of DC127’s goal is to see the church fully committed and engaged to serving vulnerable children in our city. God sets the lonely in homes and is a Father to the fatherless – and as his children, we are called to live out this love. And what a beautiful calling it is.

It’s so much bigger than just foster care. It is part of the redemptive work of Christ as he restores all of us and we work to see his kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

This is more than just a calling, it is a part of who God is, and therefore, a part of us as His body.

2) The Church Endures

I’ve always been amazed when I’ve traveled to the war torn areas of Africa, such as Northern Uganda and South Sudan. Hospitals are gone, schools are closed, houses are burned down, roads are impassable, and yet there is one thing still standing: the church. They may be meeting under a tree, but they are still meeting.

Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18 “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Here is the deal: The government may sequester or shut down; the economy might sink your business; and the funding for your non-profit may be lost. But, nothing can prevail against the church and work of God. Jesus promises that he will build his church and not even the power of hell can stop it.

The Bible refers to the church as the bride of Christ. And it is the church who Jesus is returning for.
When working with kids who have come from hard places, and families who are in crisis, it can feel, and often literally is the power of hell working against us. Yet even in the midst of poverty, addiction, and oppressive cycles and systems, the church endures. In fact, the church often endures the strongest among people who are poor and among the persecuted. The church was here before DC127 and it will endure long after.

Yet even in the midst of poverty, addiction, and oppressive cycles and systems, the church endures.

Mobilizing the church is not just about throwing fun events and potlucks. It’s about actively engaging and continuing the culture of our churches where opening homes and lives to care for kids in vulnerable situations is normal and supported.

3) It’s just smart

This seems odd to talk about after discussing the spiritual aspects of the church’s involvement in foster care, but it can’t be overlooked that faith-based communities are in a unique place to make tangible and sustainable change. Let me break this down:
A: There is no stronger network. Our faith in who God is and what he has done for us unites us as churches in ways not seen elsewhere in our society. While we may have different names above our doors, we have one faith, one Lord, and one mission. One church operating alone can do some good, but it cannot bring about major social change in a big city without working collaboratively with other churches. In yesterday’s story, we shared how several churches worked together to settle a young woman and her daughter in a new home. The network is here, we have over 600 churches in DC, we just have to build the relationships and start working more together.

B: A community of support exists. We call it the body of Christ, and it’s a beautiful thing when it works together. The church knows how to bring meals, how to share hand-me-downs, and how to be there in those tough moments. We already do this within our community, so it’s not a far stretch to expand our view to ensure children in foster care and their families, both birth and foster, are supported. It is so powerful to bring a child into not just a home, but into an existing community that is prepared to love them and do what it takes to see them succeed.

It is so powerful to bring a child into not just a home, but into an existing community that is prepared to love them and do what it takes to see them succeed.

C: We care for the whole person. When the church is at its best it is not just inviting people into relationship with Christ but caring for the healing of the whole person. When hard times lead to a child being placed in foster care, it’s not as simple as providing a home, checking that off the list, and then moving on with life. As human beings we are complex. We are messy, and healing takes awhile. Who knows this art of healing better than the church? Through our own relationship with Christ, we see how healing is a life-long journey and not a one-time event. The church can walk with children and families, both birth and foster, caring for their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.

In sum,

We’re here because we are called, because it’s a part of who we are and our tradition, and because we can do this well. Do we as churches always get along? No, we don’t. And there have been too many times where we have hurt instead of healed, and wounded instead of walked with. But at our core and at our best, we are a big family with a lot of love.

And there have been too many times where we have hurt instead of healed, and wounded instead of walked with. But at our core and at our best, we are a big family with a lot of love.

Starting a church-wide network was actually something I avoided for a while. It wasn’t until God made it painfully clear that he was not only asking me, but also asking the churches of our city to unite around foster care that I knew this was what needed to happen.

This week we’re asking for you to invest in DC127 and our efforts to unite the church around foster care. We’re specifically looking for 46 people to commit to giving anything from $10 to $100 a month to help us accomplish our mission. Would you join?

46 represents the number of months on average that kids in DC spend in foster care (twice the national average). That’s almost four years, and it will take us as a city and church united to bring that number down. Your support allows us to reach more churches to recruit and support foster and adoptive homes.

We believe that we all have a home in heaven. And if that’s true there, then no child should be waiting for a home in DC.

Will you join us?

Aaron Graham is a founder of DC127 and the lead pastor of The District Church.

Our Thanksgiving Prayer

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Last night we had the privilege (and it truly was a privilege) to lead the Prayers of the People at Capitol Hill Group Ministry’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.

Capitol Hill Group Ministry is an amazing organization that mobilizes neighbors and congregations around social justice and provides a variety of services to families and individuals who are homeless or in crisis in Capitol Hill. Every year they bring congregations together for a Thanksgiving service, and this year invited us to lead the service in a prayer for children in foster care  in the U.S. and children around the world that live without the support of a family. It was truly our honor.

Throughout this holiday season, would you join us in praying for children in foster care in the U.S. and every child around the world that lives without the support of a family?

Let us join in prayer for the children in our city living in foster care, and those around the world living without the love and support of a family.

For the estimated 153 million orphaned children around the world, the over 400,000 children in the United States foster care system, and every child who lives without parents, away from their homes, or under neglect and abuse: We pray for peace. Place the lonely in homes, and defend those who cannot defend themselves. Teach us to follow you and to care for these children as our own.

For the 1,300 children in Washington, DC’s foster care system, children who have been uprooted from their homes and face instability: We pray they feel comforted when they are afraid, embraced when they feel unnoticed, and loved when they are lonely.

For each child in foster care, we pray for reunification with their family: As a Father and Mother to all, repair the bonds between child and parent, bring freedom where addiction has taken control, and healing and forgiveness where there is pain.

For the 300 children in our city for whom reunification is not an option: Call from our congregations new adoptive parents so no child waits for a home, but families are waiting, ready to welcome children into their homes.

For the teens and older youth who have not found a permanent home and are at risk of leaving foster care without support: Teach us to be their family, and to support them in housing, education, employment, and establishing roots as a young adult. Calm their fears and prepare their paths as they move forward into adulthood.

For the children in foster care living with a disability: We pray for families. Call us and those from our congregations to open our hearts and our homes and to provide each child with a safe space to thrive.

For the children who entered care today and yesterday and who may enter in the days to come: May your peace go with them. Calm any fears or feelings of loneliness. Provide them with a safe foster home, and may their time in foster care be brief.

And finally, we pray for the foster care system, for as citizens of this city and your people, we are part of it: We confess that as individuals and a city we have not embraced children in foster care as you have asked. Guide our leaders and their policies, give rest to the social workers who work long days, and guide us, your people, as we unite for children in foster care.

Join our Prayer Network

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Over the summer, we held four different prayer gatherings hosted by various churches throughout D.C. It was a beautiful time where hundreds of you came out to pray for the children in D.C.’s foster care system. Together, we: confessed that we too often overlook the needs of children in care, admitted our need for Christ’s love to fuel our actions, and sought guidance on how to move forward as God’s people, working together for children in foster care.IMG_4524

For DC127, these nights were formative on setting a tone of reliance on Christ and they were just the beginning. We already have a mailing list (and if you’re not on it, click here to join), but we would like to build a base of prayer around this initiative, the foster care system in D.C., and the families we work with. Would you join our Prayer Network and commit to praying with us?

We will send out prayer requests focused on foster children in D.C., the agencies and organizations tirelessly working for the children, foster families, and DC127’s work. We’ll have to keep names of families and kids tucked away, and may be vague on stories to protect privacy (and rules) surrounding children in care, so just a heads up. But the main point is that we can’t do this alone – not without Christ and not without the prayerful support of folks like you.

Sign up here to join our Prayer Network.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

And just in case you don’t want to wait until the first email to pray, here are some requests now:

– Studies vary, but about 25% of children who age out of foster care experience homelessness. These young adults often leave the system without a network and without a family. Pray for these young adults aging out of foster care. Specifically pray for them to find a support network or family. Pray for the church to grow in our awareness of this population and to embrace them into our families.

-We’ve heard from several agencies and organizations who receive federal government funds and are affected by the current shutdown. Pray that their programs do not have to close (as many are at risk of this), funding comes in to pay their employees, and that the shutdown ends quickly with their funding intact so they can get back to serving our city.

Foster the City is coming up on November 2nd and it has the opportunity to connect hundreds of attendees to the need to care for children in foster care. Pray for this event – pray for the attendees, that they learn how God is calling them to get involved in the life of a child in foster care and that they will make a commitment.

DC127 Featured in The Christian Post

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The Christian Post featured DC127 and our beginnings in a great article on July 10th. As the article explains, DC127 exists because of people, like Amy and Aaron, who have seen the effects foster care can have on a child and want to unite churches around caring for children in the foster care system.

We believe that it is going to take churches working together to see a lasting change in DC. We also believe that everyone can do something to make this happen. Whether you can foster or adopt, support a family, mentor a child, or donate, this isn’t a job for one person or one church- it’s going to take all of us.

So take a second, read the article, and share it, tweet it (@reversethelist), send it to your great aunt by carrier pigeon- whatever you can do to help us get the word out.

And if you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, you can always email Chelsea, our Project Coordinator, at chelsea@dc127.org.

 

DC127 Citywide Prayer Gathering Highlights

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On Tuesday, May 21st, at DC127’s first city-wide prayer gathering, more than 150 worshipers representing seven churches across the District of Columbia joined forces to pray for the 3,000-plus children in DC’s foster system. “What an awesome experience, to see the church in DC come together to care for the kids in our city who are the most vulnerable: kids in foster care.” said Amy Graham, a pastor at the District Church, in her opening call to prayer, “It is our heart to see the church be the answer for a foster care system that is broken,” she explained.

The event included a time of corporate worship led by 714 Music and a time of community prayer led by pastors and lay leaders from across several different DC churches, including: Restoration Church, Church of the Advent, National Community Church, Nineteenth Street Baptist Church and the District Church. Excerpts from a few of these prayers, and more photos of the event included below.

The May gathering was just the first of three more citywide prayer gatherings planned throughout the summer, on June 18th, July 23rd and August 20. Each of these gatherings will focus on a call to prayer around a specific need or theme, all related to the mission of uniting to reverse DC’s foster care waitlist. Stay tuned for more information about specific locations, times and themes for these events. We hope you and your community can join us!

Pastor Amy Graham, The District Church:

A beautiful picture of grace, redemption and love can be portrayed through the act of fostering children. Just as we were vulnerable, broken and in need of redemption, God adopted us and brought us into His family. What a witness the church in DC could be to the world if we, in the same way, chose to care for the orphan in our city.

Rev. Thomas Hinson, Church of the Advent:

Why should we care about foster care and adoption? Why have Christians always cared about these issues? Because every Christian was once an orphan. And God, because of His great love, at infinite cost to Himself, sent his only, favorite son to be an orphan in the world, and rejected him so that he could adopt us and make us children. Long before it was our idea for DC, it was God’s idea for us.

Pastor Joey Craft, Restoration Church:

As this good news echoes from our churches throughout our city, remind the orphans, that you are a Father to the fatherless. Bring hope; bring caretakers; bring adoptive parents; bring the gospel that the fatherless in this city might know you as their heavenly Father, even if they don’t know their biological father. Cause us to be so captivated by your grace and love that we stand united and lavish that same love on those around us. Ignite a passion in us to care not just for the orphan and the widow, but for all those marginalized by society; for all those physically and spiritually broken.

[justified_image_grid ids=262,263,264,265,267,266,269,268,270,271] Photo Credits: Chris LaTondresse

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