AGAPE of NC Inc. was incorporated by North Carolina area churches of Christ as a Christian social service agency to provide help to children and families through foster care. Federal data show the number of licensed foster care homes in North Carolina dropped 23% from 2021 to 2022. That means there are only about 5,500 foster homes available for the approximately 10,200 children in the state. The issue isn’t so much a sharp rise in children needing foster care, rather, it is a decline in licensed foster homes. The work of AGAPE of NC is needed now more than ever before to assist with finding and licensing foster homes to give children in need a place to call home.
While not everyone is called or able to be a foster parent, AGAPE of NC believes all are able to help their mission in some way.
“We believe that anyone can help in some capacity, and AGAPE wants to be a part of the solution to the foster home crisis in our state. We know that not everyone can be a foster parent, but people don’t realize they can help in ways other than fostering. The foster care system can be confusing and hard, and AGAPE acts as a social worker for the foster parent and will fight for them,” said Kristen Loper, Social Worker with AGAPE of NC.
You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Know
AGAPE of NC works to bring awareness to the general community while also forming relationships with local churches to equip them and support them as they learn how to minister within the foster care system. Recruitment of foster homes is also part of AGAPE’s focus.
“We are involved in parent recruitment and the training of foster homes. We care for our foster homes well, so these families will be able to stay in it healthily and so they last longer. Unfortunately, 50 percent of foster homes quit within the first year, so it is very difficult to recruit and train enough families every year to replace the gap of the families that are burning out. There can be a lot of fear and confusion about the system and its bad reputation. The stories that are told about foster care are usually the horror stories which are a very small percentage of the foster care experiences. We are working with situations that are confidential, so it’s hard to show the need accurately as there are laws that protect children and their families’ privacy. We try to combat the isolating feelings that being a foster parent can bring and wrap around your entire family,” Kristen commented.
Stepping Up to Help
Not everyone is able financially or at a place in their lives that they can be foster parents, but AGAPE helps the communities they work in realize there are other ways to help children and their foster families.
“As Christians and AGAPE, we are just encouraging everyone to play the part they can play. For some, that is fostering or respite care, and others can help by donating financially. If families can get involved in any form, they can start to see that it is not as scary as it seems. Forty-five percent of all Christians, at some point in their lives, have seriously considered foster care or adoption, but only two to three percent ever actually do it. We at AGAPE believe that there are a lot of people who have a calling or desire to foster, but because of fear and confusion and a lack of support or knowledge, most people never actually take the first steps. So, we want to remove barriers and demystify foster care to help more and more people begin to walk into something that they feel drawn towards. We desire to create radical support systems. One of the ways we do this is through our Wrap Around Care ministry. This is a team made up of four to seven committed people who can form an intentional relationship with a foster family. Each team member commits to a role – team leader, caregiver, helper and encourager,” stated Kristen.