Going to church to find homes for children

Religion

December 02, 2007|By Tiesha Higgins | Tiesha Higgins,Special to The Sun

There are African-American children in the Baltimore foster-care system waiting for a loving family.

Nearly 1,000, as a matter of fact. So finding the right match is critical.

That's why an alliance of local churches is strengthening its recruitment and support of prospective families as part of One Church, One Child, a nonprofit national organization that serves as a liaison to connect potential adoptive parents with the Department of Social Services.

More than 248 children have found permanent homes through One Church, One Child since the organization opened offices in Maryland in 1988, and more than 50 percent of that number are from Baltimore.

Despite these successful adoptions, the city still has the highest concentration of children lacking permanent homes statewide.

The Rev. Joan Wharton, pastor at Mount Zion AME Church in Long Green and executive director for One Church, One Child in Maryland, said 964 of the 10,000 children in the foster-care system of Baltimore are eligible for adoption.

Joyce Coleman has adopted six children, including two sets of siblings. The 58-year-old teaching assistant and mother of three grown children said she is often asked why she has adopted so many over the years.

"I just believe my heart is open to give out some of the love God has given me," Coleman said of her adopted children, whose ages range from 9 to 14. "They will grow up to know somebody in the world loves them."

Bethel AME Church, where Coleman was interviewed, is one of six black churches in Baltimore participating in the program.

Another six churches participate in various Maryland counties where there are concentrations of children in need of permanent homes.

Any faith-based institution can participate in the One Church, One Child program, which was founded in 1981 by the Rev. George Clements of Chicago.

While many of the adopted children and families are African-American, the program aims to assist all children in need of a permanent home.

Each participating church holds monthly meetings for adoptive families and for families and individuals considering adoption.

"We're finding people are calling us and asking us to come [present information on the program]," said Pamela Frank, one of the six recruiters for Baltimore's One Church, One Child program.

Frank said recruiters are constantly looking for an opening to tell others about the program, even if it is as simple as seeing someone pick up a parenting magazine in the grocery store.

The program leverages its own recruitment efforts by partnering with faith-based organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Clergy Initiative.

Audrey Moore, a divorced mother of four adult children, adopted four children through One Church, One Child.

"You have to have passion in your heart to take on someone else's child," she said.

Moore has been a part of the program for 10 years. Her adopted children appeared happy and confident when they appeared with her recently.

From their interaction with Moore, it was clear they hold her in high regard.

"It's like a regular life," daughter Joelene McGirt, 13, said of being adopted. "I have a good life," she added, and noted that she has her own bed and a mother who loves her.

unisun@baltsun.com

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