A State Mission Offering grant program is helping Oklahoma Baptists connect with families in their communities who are in need of resources to help them care for foster children.
A web-based application called CarePortal allows churches to meet urgent needs of families who have been vetted by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS). Through the giving of Oklahoma Baptists to the Edna McMillan State Missions Offering, grants are provided to Oklahoma Baptist churches as a reimbursement for fulfilled CarePortal needs.
“Often we find families that are in crisis through partners who are not associated with the church,” said Chris Campbell, executive director of 111 Project who coordinates the CarePortal with churches. “CarePortal allows us to connect partners who don’t do a good job of engaging the church and give the partners a chance to say, ‘Hey we have this need, if the church would be open to helping, we would love for them to engage.’”
According to the CarePortal website, the portal can connect churches with foster families “through a geographically-based communication system. Opportunities on CarePortal include supporting children and families in crisis, foster care support, reunification efforts, adoption finalization and assisting youth who are aging out.”
Oklahoma Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives Justin Brown said the positive effect churches can make by participating in the CarePortal is difficult to estimate.
“It’s hard to imagine the impact we could make if every church got involved in CarePortal,” Brown said. “It would be other-worldly for the number of churches that exist to step up and raise their hand and say, ‘We’re going to help in this way’ would truly change the state of Oklahoma.”
The CarePortal program is not available in every county. Currently the portal is working in nearly 23 of the 77 counties of the state.
Amy Cordova, Oklahoma Baptists’ missions and woman’s ministry partner, explained how the grant program is helping expand the reach of the CarePortal among Oklahoma Baptists.
“We are working with CarePortal to make it available in every community,” she said. “Requests continually come through OKDHS for families who have needs, and when they do, they need churches to meet those needs. The CarePortal can’t open a county until enough churches are signed up. For a small county, that could be two or three churches; for a larger one, it’s like 100.
“To encourage churches to sign up,” Cordova continued, “we have made funds available through a grant made possible by the State Mission Offering. Oklahoma Baptists are in the best position to help Oklahoma’s children in need because we are everywhere.”
Shawn Nichols, pastor of Oklahoma City, Wilmont Place, said that the grant program made participation in the CarePortal an easy decision for his church.
“The grant has reinvigorated our commitment to CarePortal,” Nichols said. “On one hand, we have the state asking for church involvement; on the other hand, we have our state partnership supplying funds as long as we get involved. So, I mean, how do we not? All we need is people who are willing. How much more of an answer from heaven can we get?”
Since becoming involved with the CarePortal, Wilmont Place has given the project a prominent place in the church by dedicating a permanent display in their foyer to raise awareness of the ministry to church members and people in the community. The church continues to reach families in need, “and we are able to share the Gospel with each family we serve,” Nichols said.
For more information about the CarePortal and the Foster Care Grants in Oklahoma, check out oklahomabaptists.org/fostercaregrant. For more information about foster care and adoption, visit obhc.org, the website of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.