Foster and adoptive families needed now: Donors and volunteers, too!

By PENNY FLETCHER

penny fletcher photos Board members and volunteers prepare to cut the ribbon for the new office of One Church One Child at Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church in Riverview. Penny Fletcher photos.

Board members and volunteers prepare to cut the ribbon for the new office of One Church One Child at Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church in Riverview. Penny Fletcher photos.

People like LaKay Fayson, Bryant Fayson and Frankie Fayson have made helping children who have been removed from their homes find both foster homes and adoptive homes a family affair.

These children have either been removed from their home because of abuse and neglect or for other reasons have been left without family.

Working with One Church One Child of Florida (www.ococfl.org), the three Faysons have all become involved in a program that helps children find foster families while they look for adoptive families.

The organization also does many other things, some tangible and some supportive, as the workers and volunteers are taught to treat each child as an individual.

“They’re all different, like everybody else,” LaKay said. “We try to highlight different children in local publications regularly, especially the ones who are older and hard to place, before they age out of the system. They used to age-out at 18, but now may stay in the foster system until they’re 21, if they choose. Finding a family, even that late, can help them feel they have some support and connection.”

I met LaKay at the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church at 5920 Robert Tolle Drive in Riverview (on the north side of Bloomingdale just off U.S. 301) because of her effort to reach local news outlets featuring specific children. Knowing there must be many more, we met April 21 to talk about various ways to get more people involved.

LaKay Fayson is the recruiter for the 11-county Suncoast region of One Church One Child.

LaKay Fayson is the recruiter for the 11-county Suncoast region of One Church One Child.

Dr. Arie Sailor, executive director of One Church One Child of Florida, spoke at the dedication and ribbon cutting on Tuesday.

Dr. Arie Sailor, executive director of One Church One Child of Florida, spoke at the dedication and ribbon cutting on Tuesday.

LaKay has worked for five years as the recruitment coordinator for the 11 counties that make up the Suncoast Region of One Church One Child, following a career that took her from teaching to counselor; working as a therapist; and as an alcohol- and drug-abuse counselor.

Her brother-in-law, Pastor Bryant Fayson, is minister at Mt. Zion, which now serves as the area office for One Church One Child. It recently moved there and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 26, with statewide officers and others involved in attendance.

Meanwhile, LaKay’s husband Freddie is the pastor of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church at 2315 Fifth Ave. Drive E. in Palmetto. His church is also heavily involved in the project. He is a member of the local advisory committee as well.

But what is One Church One Child? I asked.

“The program was founded in 1980 to help the state of Illinois successfully address the disproportionate number of African American children lingering in the foster care system,” LaKay said. “It was implemented in Florida in March of 1988 to address this state’s problem. One Church One Child partners with the Florida Department of Children and Families, which is part of Eckerd Community Alternatives; churches and community-based care agencies; and local organizations to help raise awareness and educate the faith community and individuals regarding the needs of children in foster care.”

That’s quite a list, but it’s certainly not all One Church One Child does.

LaKay explained that there is always a way someone can help, either as an organization or as an individual.

There’s a need for foster parents and also adoptive parents to provide permanent homes. At any one time, more than 800 children in Florida are in the foster care system, with more than 50 percent of them African American.

Even though it is partnered with state agencies, the One Church One Child organization — a 501(c)3 nonprofit — is run on a skeleton crew that does a lot of the heavy lifting.

The group’s headquarters in Tallahassee has an executive director, Arie Sailor, and deputy director, Rev. Al Williams. It also has a coordination specialist and administrative assistant.

There is a 14-member board of directors appointed by the governor spread out across the state.

The Rev. Beverly H. Lane, president of the Florida State Board of Directors, said that “One Church One Child is a national organization that believes all children who languish in foster care should have a permanent home and a caring, supportive family to call their own.

“We believe that children in foster care can reach permanent status and reach their full potential,” Lane added.

With the exception of the people mentioned above, the remainder are local area partners and churches that help.

Volunteers are always critically needed.

LaKay gives presentations to civic groups and charitable organizations, houses of worship and just about any place that invites her.

“If a church (or any organization) can work to find a home for just one child, it’s wonderful. Individuals who think they have nothing to offer may be mentors, provide friendly support, or help a child learn a new skill. And anyone is able to put them on their prayer list. Prayer is such a big part of it,” LaKay continued.

board-from-all-over-the-state-and-volunteers-from-agencies-helping-with-adoptionscuttingOne Church One Child is now concentrating on finding helpers (and donors) for Project Watch-Care. Project Watch-Care affords an opportunity for churches to increase outreach ministry. Children will be identified and referred to a church through partnership with One Church One Child and a local community-care-based agency.

“The congregation can allow the child, or sibling group of children, to be connected to the church,” said LaKay. “An individual or group ministry can take the lead on the pastor’s behalf, and provide a ‘safe haven’ where they can receive guidance in spiritual, social and physical strengthening.”

Gifts may be provided for Christmas and birthdays. Individuals and mentors may support back-to-school goals; counsel with them as needed; and the congregation can allow them to grow and become an active part of the church.

Local pastors within the reach of any of The Observer News editions from Brandon to Palmetto are encouraged to email LaKay at lakay_fayson@ococfl.org. They may also call the state agency numbers in Tallahassee 888-283-0886 or 850-414-5620. Or call the Palmetto church at 941-722-6452 and the Riverview Church One Church One Child at 813-740-0210.

For more information, visit ococfl.org.

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