PALMETTO -- One Church, One Child of Florida, Inc. hopes to find one family in each church to adopt one child.
Three local churches have signed on to try to help the faith-based, nonprofit organization find adoptive matches for children without families.
St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, Turner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and St. Andrew African Methodist Episcopal Church, all of Palmetto, have signed up to participate, according to LaKay Fayson, One Church, One Child recruitment coordinator.
“When I go to a church, I tell them we’re looking for families interested in adopting, fostering or mentoring our African-American children and foster kids,” she said.
“One Church, One Child deals primarily with minority children because mostly African-Americans tend to stay in the system longer,” she said.
Arie Sailor, executive director, said 3,000 children have been adopted in various states since 1988.
“Our intent is to reach as many churches as we can,” she said. “The idea is that every child deserves and should have a permanent family of their own.”
Cathleen Waters, adoption program manager for the Office of Family Safety, part of the state Department of Children and Families, said that her agency partners with One Church, One Child in an effort to extend its reach.
Statewide, 783 children and youths are available for adoption, about 450 of whom are bi-racial or African-American, she noted.
One Church, One Child is effective in recruiting families from areas the agency is not reaching, Waters said.
“We need to make sure we’re recruiting in the communities where we can find those families,” she added.
Locally, the numbers are different: About 15 children and youths in Manatee, Sarasota, and DeSoto counties are available for adoption, Waters said.
The children living in foster care are available for adoption mostly due to abandonment, abuse or neglect, she said.
The program asks pastors and congregations to complete a memorandum about their standing, and to sign a one-year contract, said Fayson.
“Part of the obligation we ask of them is to display a kiosk and photography book and forms in their church, and to acknowledge One Church, One Child at least once a month,” she said. That might also include an announcement or a sermon from the pastor, she added.
“It’s very positive, an opportunity to grow your family,” Fayson said. “We ask churches to do what they do best -- talk about supporting and encouraging families.”
In addition to adopting, the organization also needs those who might provide foster care, serve as godparents, volunteer or contribute, according to One Church’s website.
It helps to have a church involved because for African-Americans, the church is a big part of their community, said Waters.
“The church also has a social conscience about wanting to help kids and families, it’s always a good place to know there are concerned parents, concerned families that want to help their local communities,” she said.
Often, the issue has been people are unaware of the numbers of children who are in foster care.
“This is about expanding our reach into the community, and the churches have always been seen as the major leadership in the communities,” she said.
Fayson and Pastor Beverly Lane, president of One Church, One Child’s state board of directors, appeared April 4 before the Palmetto City Commission to receive a proclamation observing April as “Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.”
Commissioner Mary Lancaster read the proclamation, which said, “Every child is entitled to be loved, cared for and nurtured,” and to be secure from verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse and neglect.
Lane told the commission she herself was fortunate to have been adopted, and added, “I am just overwhelmed with joy when it comes to children, children who are reaching out for someone to love.”
“If you know anybody who would like to adopt -- just one child -- please let us know.”
To reach One Church, One Child, go to the Internet website www.ococfl.org, or call 1-888-283-0886 or 1-850-414-5620; reach LaKay Fayson at (813) 985-7831.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.