Oklahoma churches teaming up to help children, families working with DHS
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Religious organizations across the metro are teaming up to help children who are currently in state custody.
The 111 Project and local churches have joined together in a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to change the way the faith community engages with families and children with Child Welfare Services.
Officials say the CarePortal is a geographically-based online service platform that directly connects the needs of children and families to resource providers, like churches, in real time.
Organizers say this will allow the community to tangibly support children and families in crisis, provide foster family support, assist the work of biological family reunification, help in the adoption process, recruit foster families and help youths who are aging out of the system.
“Hope is rising in the state of Oklahoma because of CarePortal,” according to OKDHS Child Welfare Director, Dr. Deb Shropshire. “We launched it in a small ‘pilot’ county because we wanted to see if it would actually work the way we imagined. Little did we know three years later we’d have expanded to impact more than 50% of our state’s population and be looking toward our entire state being active within the next few years. CarePortal is positioned to provide an unprecedented value to OKDHS that far exceeds the financial investment and goes beyond money. Not only has it brought significant concrete physical supports to the families and foster families we serve, but, much more than that, has been the relational impact on families and on our staff.”
Organizers say the process begins when a DHS worker identifies a client’s need ranging from transportation support like bus passes, household items for people released from prison, and necessities for children.
Churches signed up on the CarePortal in close proximity receive an email with the client’s needs and are then able to personally meet those needs.
“The problem has never been not enough resources. We have people in the faith community who want to help – they just don’t always know how,” says Chris Campbell, Executive Director of 111Project. “We want to be a support to not only the families and children, but to the OKDHS workers who tirelessly tackle challenges every day.”
So far, over 221 active churches in 17 counties are signed up in the CarePortal. However, the CarePortal plans to roll out in all 77 Oklahoma counties.
“With every church doing a little, we believe this simple strategy of support and recruitment will help our state meet all of our hopes for a better child welfare, while giving the church deepening pathways of engagement,” states Chris Campbell. “111Project has already seen dozens of families move from assisting with physical needs of children and families, to getting invested in deeper ways, opening their homes as foster parents or committing to support a family preventing their children from ever entering state care. A reality is coming of families waiting on children instead of children waiting on families in the Oklahoma Child Welfare system.”