Sue Baird, a member of 4Tucson's Social Services Domain, understood the AZ Department of Child Safety (DCS) had a child welfare crisis and was open to Christian churches partnering with them to serve children and families.
In April 2015, she discovered a new ministry had just launched to help churches serve America's 400,000 "orphans" in the foster care system. It was called CarePortal. Working in conjunction with 4Tucson, she asked the leadership of CarePortal to consider Pima County as a pilot county in Arizona. They agreed.
4Tucson helped Sue as a catalyst to spread the word across our existing network of churches throughout Tucson. Together, on December 3, 2015, in partnership with DCS, CarePortal launched in Pima County with 19 churches in the network. This sparked a new mission for Tucson: connecting local churches with child welfare. This fit perfectly with the mission of 4Tucson Social Services Domain.
The AZ Department of Child Safety receives 800 child abuse or neglect calls every month in Pima County alone. DCS is required to investigate these reports, and most of them are resolved, but about 230 children out of those 800 abuse or neglect reports are placed in the foster care system monthly.
The primary goal for CarePortal is to help safely keep children together with their families when the state is not able to offer support. In Tier 1 of their three-tier program, they do this by connecting case workers with local churches through an email request system. Churches are then able to support struggling families by providing material needs.
"The goal for CarePortal is to get the church to step back into this world," says Sue Baird, regional manager. Fear of heartbreak, as well as ignorance to the great need in foster care has been the major reasons the church is not more involved. "Once you're in proximity to this issue, you realize how much of an impact you can have...and how much you are impacted by serving," says Sue.
CarePortal has been part of reducing the number of children in foster care in Arizona over the last two years from 19,000 to 16,000—with 2,916 of those in Pima County. CarePortal has served a total of 2,185 children, now has 73 active churches involved, and made an economic impact of over $830 million in Arizona. Momentum is building.
CarePortal has recently launched Tier 2 of their program. Tier 1 meets the material needs of struggling families and children to prevent removal, help a foster or adoptive family or a young adult aging-out of the “system.” Tier 2 is designed to meet relational needs, including opportunities with young adults aging-out, transportation, and mentors.
“I am praying the church is awakened to this need,” Sue said. A lot has been done already, but there is a long way to go. Would you like to be a part of it? Go to careportal.org to learn more, donate, or spread the word.
Thank you, Sue, for your generosity and willingness to share your story. Share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Social Services Domain page on our website for more information about the work this domain is doing and how to get involved.