How can I host or start a regional Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care in my own area?
First of all, pray. Then identify two or three others in your locality who are passionate about helping our children in foster care. There may be a foster or adoptive parent, someone from a service agency, and someone from a local congregation whom you can ask to get involved. Enlist the support of a pastor, imam, rabbi, or active leader in a congregation. Let this be the beginning of your advisory/planning team. Start small. Let yourself discover all the helping hands ready to connect the needs with local resources.
What are some specific steps? (Meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive)
- WHO: Gather together an advisory/planning group. List others who have a heart for children in need whom you would like to invite to your gatherings. They can be clergy, congregational leaders of various faiths, educators, foster/adoptive families, social service agencies, lawyers, community service volunteers, leaders in service organizations, etc.
- WHEN: Coordinate the dates your regional FCC will meet. Many of our regions meet quarterly, but you might want to begin meeting bi-monthly in order to establish mutual respect and appreciation among interfaith members. This provides an opportunity to share basic information, correct stereotypes or misunderstandings, and identify commonalities. Other regions meet two to three times a year. See what works best for you.
- WHERE: Establish the place(s) your FCC will meet. You may want to rotate meeting places between different congregations. A seating arrangement around round tables allows for table discussions that promote interaction and equality among participants.
- WHAT: Determine what presentations you all would like to hear. Some of our regional groups have shown interest in the following topics: What it’s like to be a foster parent? What it’s like to be a foster child? What’s it like to be aging out of the system? An adoptive parent? A mentor or respite care giver? What does it take to become a foster/adoptive parent? What resources are available through local service agencies? How can congregations help in small and large ways—through donations, personal involvement and/or raising awareness about foster care in local community?
- HOW: Send out invitations to your meetings by establishing an email list. You might want to begin by calling, and keep a list of snail mail addresses as well. Ask participants to specify their preferred means of contact. See samples on the FCC web site of email invitations and flyers. Ask local congregations of all faiths and service agencies to pass your email along and to duplicate and distribute your flyers. Make it easy for local congregations to invite their members by providing them with a 2-3 sentence blurb to post in their own announcements and emails.
- HINT: One way to raise awareness among members of congregations quickly is to hold a donation drive. Partner with a local service agency to discover the immediate needs. Print out the list of needs to distribute at worship services. See examples under “CareKits for Foster Kids” under TOOLS.
- INCLUDE: Reach out to other congregations and faith-based groups, (e.g. local Buddhist organizations, Synagogues, other Christian denominations, Mosques, etc.) if representatives from those communities are not already included.
What are some organizational matters our FCC regional group may need to cover? What has worked for other FCC regions?
Establish who will have certain responsibilities for the meetings such as:
- Set the agenda. General format includes:
- Welcome and opening prayer by host pastor or congregational leader;
- Update on FCC and congregations in action; presentation by key speaker(s) or panel;
- General introductions of everyone present;
- Time for general discussion and table talk;
- Wrap-up; announcements followed by closing prayer and time for networking.
- Secure the speaker(s)
- Provide the publicity and personal invitations
- Location: One suggestion is to rotate meeting locations, perhaps at a church one time and a temple, or mosque the next. Setups include round tables if possible; microphone, projector for power point and DVDs or other AV equipment; long table for agencies to display their materials; and signs pointing to meeting location.
- Dates/Times: When selecting the date, be considerate of holy days and times. Muslims pray on Fridays at noon. The Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Some Christian denominations worship on Saturday. Jewish Rosh Hashanah initiates a 10-day period of reflection in the fall that ends on the Highest Jewish Holy Day, Yom Kippur. Plan your meetings and events that do not conflict with these sacred times.
- Refreshments: The host site prepares the refreshments. It is suggested that during Ramadan month, you join your Muslim sisters and brothers in fasting.
- Name tags/Sign in sheets. Have someone record these at the meeting and send a copy of the sign-ins to FCC office to get everyone on our email list;
- Create and maintain your own roster and email list.
- Select someone to welcome guests and invite them to sign up, etc.
- Select someone to take pictures, write up a brief report to send out by email as a follow-up to your guests, and to post on the FCC web site. Your regular communication builds your coalition.
- Duplicate flyers of interest such as the one about the Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care, (see TOOLS for flyer “You Can Make a Positive Difference”). You can also provide lists of your local service agencies and suggested ways that congregations can help. See TOOLS for ideas such as Care Kits for Aging out Youth; books and toys; school supplies; Care Kits for Babies; Care Kits for foster kids going to camp, etc.)
- Please make copies of your sign in sheets and send to Rev. Kate Thoresen, 1669 West Maple Rd., Birmingham, MI 48009 or scan and email to firstname.lastname@example.org
As a Faith Communities Coalition member, pray to find ways you feel called to be a part of the larger picture of God’s love in action to care for Michigan’s children in foster care. Members have an interest in working together in a larger picture with people of all faiths to improve the lives of children in foster care and to support the well-being of foster families.
Acknowledge and respect religious differences among members, while recognizing your collaboration and concern for children in need. Respect each other’s holy times and practices while coordinating efforts to reach out to foster children and their families.
What is the mission of the Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care?
Our purpose is to help raise awareness and involvement of the people in local congregations who have a heart for children. Even if only two or three members in congregations get involved in helping a child, that will make a positive difference.
Remember that this is a grass roots endeavor that will grow as people learn more about the children in foster care and discover the enriching joy, blessings and challenges of making a positive change in the life of a child.
We want to be a source of inspiration among different faiths and share information between congregations about the needs of Michigan’s foster children and families.
We want to learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t without being prescriptive.
As an interfaith organization, we use inclusive language during meetings and prayers to respect and honor our differences while acknowledging shared concerns and faith.
The intent is to be a catalyst for many congregations, faiths, and agencies to come together, meet one another, and form working partnerships that best meet the foster care needs in their area. We are here to connect congregations with our foster kids.
What are some other questions that arise concerning regional groups?
- Does each regional group have a steering committee or group of team leaders? Most have a group of leaders who coordinate the meetings—often through emails.
- What are the coordinated functions of the team leaders? Set the agendas for meetings, arrange meeting spaces, book speakers, invite local congregations, publicize, keep contact list of the emails of those attending, provide refreshments, etc.
- How should the local team leaders committee be constituted? That’s up to the local people
- How many team leaders are needed for each region? Each region decides. One idea: Invite the key stakeholders and see who comes and gets involved
- How do the leaders try to ensure that FCC is inclusive of all faith groups, so all are welcomed to unite in our care for our children in foster care? An example, try to make sure language used at meetings, and for prayers, etc. are mindfully inclusive of all faith traditions. Invite prayers for the children from various faith traditions.
Resources for Leaders:
- FCC Logo
- FCC Letterhead
- FCC Large Meeting poster
- FCC Sign in Sheets
- You Can Make a Positive Difference flyer to distribute at meetings
- FCC Nametags
- FCC Agenda Example