Wraparound Care Journey
Since 2011, Journey Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has operated an active adoption and foster care ministry, to the point where 40 families in the congregation now are involved in one or the other, or both.
However, because of the stress and unexpected demands, foster parents can be ripe for burnout. An element of support for such families seemed to be missing.
Thanks to COMPACT Family Services, Journey Church and other congregations throughout the nation are receiving training on how to alleviate the burden. A recently published CompaCare System Manual delineates the concept of wraparound care to support families with foster children in their home. The CompaCare model of ministry includes a guidebook and training that assists congregations in recruiting volunteer helpers to support foster parents.
“God connected us to CompaCare at the perfect time,” says Journey Church Executive Pastor Bob W. Griffith. “The wraparound plan will change foster care not just in our church, but in the entire county.”
Eric and Katie Voight initiated a volunteer foster care and adoption ministry at Journey Church 6 years ago at the behest of Lead Pastor Kevin S. Taylor. The Voights have five children: Josiah, 15; Birhan, 12; Alaina, 10, Grace, 8; and Micah, 7. Four of the children were adopted, three of them from Ethiopia.
“We’ve watched God move not only in the hearts of the congregation, but also in church leadership,” Voight says. He notes that Griffith and his wife, Wendy, have three adopted children and a foster child, in addition to their two biological children.
By 2020, Taylor hopes that 200 families in the church of 3,500 attendees are engaged in foster care, adoption, or wraparound support care.
“What a difference it makes when the pastor is on board,” says COMPACT Director of Family and Community Resources Johan Mostert, who authored the bulk of the 90-page CompaCare manual.
Journey Church already is taking care of 20 percent of the foster kids living in Kenosha, a city of 100,000 midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. Griffith believes the church can step up and help care for the 86 kids currently from Kenosha who do not have a home. In fact, Griffith says the CompaCare training has opened doors with local and state officials interested in learning more about how the church can help.
Griffith, 42, is in a Southeastern University doctoral program, with a final project of how to grow foster care and adoption in the local church. His passion for this ministry stems from adopting three children and serving as a foster parent for four years. The Griffith children are Lindsay, 14; Mark, 12; Madison, 9; Kelsey, 4; and Brooks,
“Not everyone can foster a child, but everyone can do something,” Griffith says. The James 1:27 mandate of caring for the orphan is doable because of CompaCare, Griffith says. Journey Church recently took the first step in the CompaCare plan and recruited a dozen wraparound volunteers.
“Wraparound care will help families feel like they’re not alone,” Voight says.
Griffith cites Christian Alliance for Orphans statistics that show while 38 percent of American churchgoers want to be involved in foster care or adoption, in reality only 1 percent of the average congregation actually is. Indeed, Griffith conducted a survey at Journey Church and found 150 additional people are interested in helping in such a ministry.
A CompaCare strategy that really increases the retention rate, Griffith says, involves recruiting five foster families, two respite families and 15 support volunteers.
“Everyone talks about how the system isn’t working right,” says Griffith. “This is an actual plan to involve the local church in solutions. CompaCare will help the church move forward with the vision.”
That additional wraparound support includes such elements as providing meals for the family, a night of baby-sitting so the parents can have a night out alone, clothes and supplies to meet the needs of the new arrivals, and respite care so the parents can have a weekend break.
“Kids are in foster care for a reason,” Voight says. “Their parents were incapable of caring for them and they have experienced a lot in their young lives.”
The Voights have been married for 18 years. In 2005, their biological daughter, Allison, died at 8 months.
“We’ve dealt with a lot of grief, but our passion is fueled for kids who are suffering,” Voight says.