Church’s foster care initiative empties local shelter, embraced statewide

Church’s foster care initiative empties local shelter, embraced statewide

What started as a pastor’s burden for orphans has impacted the lives of hundreds of at-risk children and their families as well as Mississippi’s child welfare system.

In 2015, as Tony Karnes of Michael Memorial Baptist Church, Gulfport, Mississippi, was preparing a sermon he took to heart James 1:27, which implores Christians to “visit orphans … in their affliction.”

Karnes subsequently visited the Harrison County Children’s Shelter, which “was filled with children,” some who had been taken from their homes due to neglect or abuse. 

Some of the children in the shelter, which was intended for short-term stays, had been there for months because no foster homes were available, Karnes said. He returned to the church with a vision for recruiting 100 Harrison County families to be licensed as foster homes and to “rescue” some of those children from the shelter.

About 50 church families volunteered, but the state’s time-consuming foster home licensing process could span a year or longer. 

So Karnes and church members developed and proposed to child protective services a streamlined three-month foster care licensing process that included online classes and one Saturday of training. Rescue 100 became the program’s named based on Karnes’ original goal.

‘Walk in faith’

Being a foster parent “teaches you, it stretches you and you learn to transition and accept changes, and it will move you out of your comfort zone,” said church member Anna Griffin.

The second foster placement for Griffin and her husband Scott was a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl whose stay was long-term. But the Griffins made it permanent adopting Skylar-Rose, who is now 4. They also have three biological sons, ages 8, 10 and 19.

You don’t know how the story’s going to unfold,” Griffin said. “You just walk in with faith saying, ‘I don’t know how all this is going to turn out. All I’m going to do is let them see the gospel lived out in my home and let them feel loved and safe in a way that they’ve never known.’

“And whether they stay in your home forever or they go home, they’ve known the love of God and that’s better than not knowing it ever.” (BP)

How to Pray:

  • Pray for more families in Mississippi and across the country to consider fostering and adopting children.
  • Pray the children in shelters and foster care will be taken care of and will know they are loved and cherished by God. (TAB)