Texas Baptist Home extending reach
New Garland office will aid rising number of kids state care
September 24th, 2018 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
GARLAND During the month between their opening date, Aug. 6, and the building dedication on Sept. 7, the Texas Baptist Home for Children’s office in Garland began serving five new families and their 17 foster children.
That reality gave proof to the claim by TBHC representatives that the northeast Dallas region is a growth area for recruiting and training new foster and adoptive families. On average, 1,000 of the region’s children are in the care of Texas Department of Family Protective Services, said Jason Curry, TBHC president. But the region has only 600 available beds in qualified foster homes.
As of August, 17,000 Texas children, from newborns to 17-year-olds, were in the care of one of the state’s 11 child welfare regions. Foster care agencies, faith-based and secular, can’t keep up with the increasing number of children entering the child welfare system, Curry said.
“With that north Dallas area expanding rapidly there’s just been this incredible increase in foster care intake,” Curry told the TEXAN. “Just looking at the need, we’re saying we can go there and fill that need.”
From the Garland office, TBHC can expand its services far beyond the ministry’s base in Waxahachie, 60 miles to the south, by reaching farther into North and East Texas to recruit and train potential foster and adoptive families. Last year the agency fostered 287 children, up from 280 in 2016.
That number reflects the total number of children taken into TBHC care each year. Some remain a month or two while others stay in foster care much longer or even age out of the system. Curry hopes to raise the number of children TBHC cares for to an average of 150 children a month.
With the Garland office potentially adding 45 kids a month and the families to care for them, the agency could take in more than 300 foster children next year, Curry said.
The Garland office’s first two staff members are Emily Clarke, who serves as a foster and adoption recruiter, and Cristi Lantano, who is the foster care supervisor for the Dallas County office.
“Families are actually interested,” Curry said. “There’s more talk in the churches about it. More so, I think, than in the last decade. There is this great need for churches to step up and do it and pastors are getting that message and they’re stepping up and talking about it.”
Some local pastors like Ryan Burchett, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Garland, which houses the newest TBHC office, joined the grand opening ceremony as a show of support.
“Except for the preaching the Word, there’s not much else out there that can display the gospel like foster care and adoption because that’s who God is to us when we follow Jesus in faith,” Burchett said. “He adopted us into his family. That’s the main reason why we’re here.”
Curry welcomes the initial support but urges SBTC churches to consider how they can partner with the ministry. Often traumatic circumstances precipitate a child’s removal from their home, leaving them—and their foster parents—with a host of needs.
Supporting parents in the church who foster and adopt means offering material and emotional help that can be a little more complicated than just offering to keep the kids for an evening. Even that requires state certification. But those with the special training can offer priceless aid to foster parents who would benefit from an evening or weekend alone.
Curry knows that full well. At one point he and his wife, Tonya, had nine children in their home.
“It was a fun time. And it was exhausting,” he said.
The couple had to give up fostering children and Curry had to leave his job as family pastor when he accepted the TBHC presidency. Giving up his engagement with the children in his ministry at church and as a foster dad gave him pause.
So, he and Tonya prayed.
“The whisper that happens in prayer from the Lord was, ‘How many kids can you take care of?’”
With two adopted children and one biological child in their home, Curry knew the state of Texas would only allow three more foster children.
“And then God made this whisper, ‘You can take care of thousands if you do this,’” Curry said. “To say yes was to reach out to families who feel like they can’t do it.”
With the opening of the TBHC Garland office, that reach just became a little longer.