On The Grid: Tier 1 – PreventionRich Stigall
Product of the system.
It’s a cold statement, much like the reality that it is intended to describe. The phrase generally carries a negative connotation, implying that structural circumstances outweigh the individual considerations at play. Yet, the negative connotations married to the phrase have emerged because of challenges associated with the system. For the child welfare system, it’s no different: children in the system have had to endure a litany of temporary placements along with the stigma of being in the system. Negative connotations, indeed.
What if, though, the child never had to enter the child welfare system? What if measures could be taken to prevent the initial introduction into this world of stigma and strife?
The Care Portal ministry is designed to address a variety of issues associated with the child welfare system, including the topic of entry. On The Grid, box Tier 1 – Prevention includes such services and goods that are required to assist a struggling family on the verge of collapse. If this box had to be given a name, it would be called family preservation.
In these early days of The Care Portal ministry, there have been a number of churches who have answered the calls for family preservation help. In one Care Portal request, a single father of four teenage children – two of which have special needs – desired to keep the family unit together but was struggling. The home was in desperate need of exterminator services, and the cost of the exterminator services was around $700. The landlord of the home was only willing to contribute $250, leaving a gaping hole of $450 and a disheartened father at the prospects of putting his children in the system.
When Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City responded to this request, it put to rest the haunting what ifs of the child welfare system. The children can stay with their father, with each other. The social worker who created the request noted the uniqueness of the request and commented that The Care Portal is a “great way to engage [the] church in awareness of needs and meeting needs and partner with other churches.”
In another Care Portal request, a single mother who had left her abusive husband had finally been able to save enough money to get her own apartment; however, she was in need of a dresser and a kitchen table and chairs. In order to keep her family together, this mother needed some assistance simply to create a more stable, less cluttered environment. When New Life Assembly of God in Concordia, MO, responded to this request, they provided not only concrete goods but family preservation. The social worker who closed this request offered her own perspective, stating that “I think the Care Portal is the perfect opportunity to be church as described in Acts.”
Exterminator services or family breakdown? A dresser and a kitchen table or foster care? Product of the family or product of the system? These are the real alternatives before us. You choose.
Interested in keeping families together? Spread the word and consider enrolling your church at careportal.org.
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