It is hard to imagine, but the raw truth is that 10,000 Oklahoma children are in the custody of the State of Oklahoma. Read that number again—10,000. These children, ranging in age from newborn to teens, have been removed from parental custody to become wards of the state.
The reasons for their removal from their homes of origin are legend. Drugs, alcohol, abuse, neglect, even incarceration of parents all play a part. Sometimes biological parents find themselves in a temporary situation that cannot be resolved quickly. No matter what the cause, 10,000 children have been taken from their homes, sometimes with nothing more than a trash bag containing their clothes.
Let me put a face on a few of the 10,000 for you. One sibling group of two brothers, 4th grade and 7th grade, were taken into custody. Before they were removed from their family, they had been locked in small rooms where they did not receive food or care, causing significant problems with anxiety, trust, and fear.
One 15-year-old girl was taken from her home because of the incarceration of her parent. During a 2 1/2 year span, she endured five shelters, one detention facility, and 11 placements in foster care.
Volumes could be written about these children who are in the custody of the state. While their stories vary significantly, they have very common needs. Every child needs a stable environment, love, and emotional support. They need parents who will show them love and extend grace when they struggle. Some children need a home for a period of time, and some need a forever family. All of them need the love of Jesus expressed through loving, Gospel-centered people; people who will demonstrate the Gospel and tell these children of the Savior. Who better to provide this kind of loving care than Oklahoma Baptist families?
Today, in Oklahoma, there is a need for more than 500 foster care homes to provide care for these children caught in the system. I am issuing a call for pastors and church leaders to sound the alarm in our churches. We, as Oklahoma Southern Baptists, can and must be a part of the solution for these 10,000 children.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) and Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC) are going to become aggressively involved in helping our churches recruit, train, and support families who will become foster parents. Starting immediately, if you are interested in exploring foster care, call OBHC at 405/942-3800, ext. 4628. The BGCO and OBHC will work in conjunction with the Eckerd organization, who has agreements with the State of Oklahoma to place children in care.
The Scripture calls us to serve these children. James 1:27 reads, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Oklahoma Baptists can make a difference in the lives of these 10,000 children by demonstrating pure and faultless religion. We can live out the Gospel as we love and care for these precious children.