Jan Risher

Jan Risher

Considering fostering a child tangles my brain.

First, I am grateful to my own daughter’s foster parents — a couple in China, who cared for our daughter from the time she was six weeks old until the day before we met her nearly 10 months later.

Our daughter weighed almost twice what her counterparts who had spent their first months in orphanages weighed. She was talking, playing, interacting in ways none of the other children who had not been in foster care did at the time. Granted, in their new loving homes, they have caught up, but I can never repay these people for the love they gave our daughter in those in-between months.

When people tell my friend, Kim Carver, an adoption and foster advocate of Mandeville, that they can’t foster because they would be too heartbroken when the child leaves, he tells them that foster children need people who will have a broken heart when they leave.

“Those are exactly the people we need,” Carver said. “The world isn’t made for the work of fostering children — and we need to do more to help however we can.”

He went on to say that there’s no easy way to know all the more we need to do. However, the first thing we need to do is recruit more suitable foster families to solve the gap between the number of children who need homes and the number of homes available. Right now, Louisiana only has about half the number of foster families it needs.

Carver and other New Orleans-area adoption/foster advocates decided that churches would be a good place to start in narrowing that gap. They built an organization called Crossroads NOLA. They not only recruit foster families, they train and develop them.

Carver explained that when the organization or a church finds a family ready to foster, they ask the prospective foster family to bring two more families with them to the meeting. Like the point the Mark Walberg movie, "Instant Family," drives home, Crossroads NOLA wants people to know that they should not try to foster in a vacuum — they need a village.

“We need high-quality, high-caliber care,” Carver said. “We need to make foster care into a noble calling like Teach for America or the Peace Corps.”

Carver and I both grew up Southern Baptist and are clear on the Bible’s stance on widows and orphans. He said that he and other adoption/foster advocates see churches as a natural support structure for the foster system — and that if every church would commit to fostering one child, there wouldn’t be a foster issue anymore.

“I believe there’s enough love, faith and resources for the church to solve this problem,” Carver said. “If every congregation would take one child, there would be no waiting children.”

Until that best-case scenario materializes, Carver says statistics for foster children are pretty dire. The Dave Thomas Foundation released research that says only 3 percent of foster children find their way to college.

Carver is working with an informal caucus of advocates across Louisiana to find ways to improve the life paths of foster children.

“One thing we’ve done is to put kids who age out of foster care into the legislature as interns every year,” Carver said. “Once a year we have a big gala at the WWII Museum in November to honor Louisiana Angels from the foster field. These people do difficult work. Gov. Edwards and his wife come. The event puts a spotlight on the cause.”

On the upside, thanks to people like Carver and other advocates across the state, within the past three years, Louisiana has broken adoption records.

However, we still have a long way to go.

“They are our kids. They are in custody of the state,” Carver said. “They’re in the system at no fault of their own. There’s probably an extra seat in your minivan, at your table.”

If you would like information on fostering in Louisiana, go to http://www.louisianafosters.la.gov/support-families.html. If you would like to learn more about Crossroads NOLA, the organization Carver volunteers with to find more suitable foster families by recruiting within the faith community in New Orleans, go to http://www.crossroadsnola.org/foster-care/