For the past 18 years, one of my most important and mind-expanding exercises has been to force myself, each and every week, to initiate a conversation with at least one community leader I have never met before. So far, I have enjoyed and been challenged by candid conversations with about a thousand Colorado Springs movers and shakers.
Several years ago I had coffee with several local evangelical leaders, including Jim Daly, then chief operating officer at Focus on the Family. To my delight, Daly was open, inquisitive and gracious. He was also passionate about the need to help kids in foster care, not surprising since he once was a foster child himself. Jim vividly recalled how lonely it was in foster care, and how blessed he felt when he was adopted at age 9 into a new loving family.
Now, as president and CEO, Jim has helped direct Focus' attention on working with churches nationwide to help healthy families adopt kids in foster care, especially hard-to-place kids who are often older and/or have physical and psychological challenges. One component of Focus' "Wait No More" initiative is to encourage congregational members to become long-term "uncles and aunts" to the newly adopted child. This team approach has resulted in stronger support systems for families.
When I learned that many local churches and nonprofits were partnering with Focus to help kids in foster care, I suggested to Jim that our two organizations co-host an event on foster-care successes and needs in the region. Daly immediately gave the idea a big thumbs-up. So please join us at our Fostering Celebration event, from 2 to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 11 at Colorado College.
As a co-host, the Independent has five goals:
• First and foremost, we seek to loudly applaud the great work of current foster families, their support agencies, and dozens of local nonprofits actively working to improve the lives of kids in foster care, especially Vanguard Church, Woodmen Valley Chapel, New Life Church, Project 1.27, CASA of the Pikes Peak Region and Fostering Hope.
• Second, we're seeking more families interested in taking in and nurturing children in foster care for a relatively short time while their parent(s) work through their challenges. With a sour economy and so many families directly involved in war zones, more local families and agencies that serve them are under severe stress. Last year alone, the El Paso County Department of Human Services received more than 12,000 calls concerning possible cases of child abuse and/or neglect.
• The third goal is to educate our community about faith-based and secular programs supporting families that permanently adopt kids out of the foster-care system. Unfortunately, even with counseling and intervention, some parents can't get their act together. When it's not safe for a child to return to his or her biological parent(s), and no extended family is available, there is a need for local families to permanently adopt kids out of the foster-care system, especially hard-to-place kids — often those over 5 years old and/or those with special psychological or physical needs.
• Fourth, the Independent is working with the business community to provide tangible "gratitude gift bags" to families caring for foster kids. This will include everything from baseball tickets to cool hats and sunglasses, from coupons good for free books to free haircuts.
• Last, but certainly not least, it is our vision that this event will encourage a greater number of civil conversations not only between our two organizations, but also between the Independent's 125,000 local readers and those who support Focus' goal and mission. It is no secret that even as we organize this event, Focus and the Indy disagree, passionately, about many issues. But we're just as interested in the issues that unite us — in our desire to make Colorado Springs a safe, exciting, sustaining and vibrant place.
Please join us, for free, on June 11 at CC's elegant Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave. Come hear personal stories of Jim Daly and others, and learn how each of us can help support kids in foster care. If we all do a little, we will accomplish a lot.
Interested in making a contribution to our gratitude gift bags for families? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Claire at 719/577-4545.