WASHINGTON — In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, CityServe, along with churches around the nation will be observing a National Day of Prayer, referred to as Blue Sunday, this April 25th. This day reminds faith communities to intercede in prayer for abused and neglected children and to open their doors to provide good homes for those who need them.
Giving children a safe place to lay their head every night is not only a beautiful expression of God’s love, it is the responsibility of the Church. We at CityServe believe wholeheartedly in this mission and challenge the faith community to go a step further – to strengthen the American family so kids stay safe in their homes and empower churches to go all in when caring for children who are waiting for their forever families.
Along with its collaborative network of HUB and POD (point of distribution) churches, CityServe is mitigating the risk factors associated with abusive home environments. Factors like poverty, addiction, hunger, single-parenthood, mental health issues, and incarceration that are found in every city in America. Unfortunately, these issues are common to our current cultural moment. But CityServe knows that God’s people can bring light to any kind of darkness.
Abuse Prevention: A Holistic Approach to Ministry
In 2019 there were 250,000 children and young adults waiting in the foster care system. Our belief is that serving families before abuse occurs is vital if our hope is to see them stay intact and decrease the staggering number of children waiting to be adopted.
In a March discussion about how the local and global church might care well for families at risk, CityServe Vice President of Children’s Initiatives, Lynn Johnson said, “We need to go into every zip code with the intent to build strength and dignity and caring.”
strength and dignity and caring.”
Lynn’s experience as Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as well as her own firsthand experiences mentoring young adults aged out of foster care, have fueled her passion about faith communities doing not only their part, but doing it in ways that only churches can – as a family.
“61% of the kids removed from their homes are removed due to the consequences of poverty,” Johnson explained. “Not because they’ve been physically or sexually abused.”
So, what can churches do to alleviate the emotional and physical toll on families suffering the
effects of poverty?
A small chore like offering to babysit while a single parent looks for employment or simply rests is a start. Offering to mow a lawn, bring a home-cooked meal, or deliver groceries can help reduce some of the strain on the family. The possibilities are endless when a church community decides to wrap around a family using all their gifts, talents, and resources.
CityServe’s abuse prevention efforts are in line with several of our core initiatives: to serve the hungry, the widow, the poor, the addicted, the prisoner, the vulnerable, and the exploited. In 2018, there were 38.1 million Americans living below the poverty line. The pressure on a family that must make the choice each month between paying rent or buying groceries is immense. When churches serve the needs of families in these circumstances, they can help release that pressure and bring the light of Jesus into the home.
Some of the ways that CityServe HUBs and PODs are engaging in the ministry of abuse prevention are through meeting hunger needs, engaging families with an incarcerated parent and supporting families dealing with addiction.
But what happens when abuse has already occurred?
Redeeming Stories of Abuse
If a loving, Christian family can foster or adopt a child or young adult in the foster care system, there is no doubt that they should. Scripture is clear on the church’s role in caring for the orphan and the widow: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27. For families that can’t foster or adopt for themselves, there are still many key roles to play in the life of a child and a foster or adoptive family.
Support can come in the form of something simple like running errands. Or throwing a baby shower for the adoptive family and making sure they have a vehicle suitable for transporting their kids. Offering babysitting or mentoring for older kids is another way to walk alongside these families. According to YouthMentor.org, “Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.”
When a young adult or child receives loving guidance from a trusted adult, the results can be lifesaving. Foster Focus Magazine reports that without social connections or family to call upon, 40-50% of emancipated youth experience homelessness. These youth are also more likely to be preyed upon by sex traffickers. In fact, 60 % of domestic child trafficking victims have a history in the child welfare system (childrensrights.org).
Johnson reminds us that the greatest hope for our nation’s kids is found when the church community decides that it is their job to go “all in.”
“CPS (Child Protection Services) is only one piece of the puzzle,” she says. “Teachers, pastors, doctors, and parents see these children. One system cannot take the hit on this [child abuse]. The whole community has to start wrapping their arms around America’s kids.”
With prayer and God’s love in action, it’s more than possible. What will your church do?
On April 25th join CityServe in praying for child abuse to end. That the factors that lead to abuse would be alleviated and that families would stay whole. Pray for discernment in how your church family might partner in the ministry of abuse prevention and how best to wrap around families who are already serving America’s kids.
CityServe is a collaborative network of churches and community leaders connected to help those in need live better lives. CityServe empowers the local church to fulfill its purpose to overcome despair and transform lives by resourcing them with tangible goods and capacity building. CityServe brings the church to the table to address community challenges by offering long-lasting relationships that lead to transformation and has been designated a “Community of Faith and Opportunity” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information about CityServe and its initiatives, please visit https://cityserve.us or on social platforms, @cityservehq.
CONTACT: Crissy Cochran, 661-472-7305, [email protected]
Source: City Serve, All in for America’s Kids