Journey Packs: A Service Project

Guest ColumnistCommunity News

by Tracy Wilcox
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On February 18, 2010, the Gathering women’s ministry and Community ONE:27 joined together to assemble twenty-six Journey Packs for the foster youth in Santa Barbara County.  Journey Packs are backpacks filled with important and necessary supplies such as: sweatshirts, toiletries, school supplies, water bottles and stuffed animals.  These Journey Packs are being delivered to shelters in Santa Barbara and will be handed out to the children who are placed there.  The children, when taken from their homes, are placed in shelter care homes until other foster care homes are found.  The idea of Journey Packs comes from a former foster youth who is now 25 years old.  After discussing with her what Community ONE:27 can do to help the foster youth who are in the system now, she recommended making Journey Packs.  Community ONE:27 is very thankful to have the opportunity to join together with the Gathering to provide a tangible way to help foster youth on their journey. 

Community ONE:27 is a group of people who have come together to mobilize our church to care for orphans and the foster care system in our community and the world.  145 millions orphans is a big number to comprehend and is overwhelming.  We are taking steps for our community to find practical ways to help these children.  We chose Community ONE:27 as our name since we are establishing a community that is based on James 1:27.  It reads Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Community ONE:27 believes this verse is not a mandate, but a definition of “pure and faultless” religion.

In the United States, there are 500,000 children in foster care.  In 2008, 68,127 of the children lived in California and 580 children in Santa Barbara.[1] The numbers grow each year and there are not enough foster care homes.  Without a home for these children to go to, who is taking care of them?  The problem right now rests on the state, but the problem should not solely rest on the state and needs to be taken care of through the community and by the church.  

Why should we care?  Eventually these children in the foster care system grow up to be adults. 20,000 foster youth “age out” of the system when they turn 18 years of age.    Without a long life connection to a caring adult, the stats of foster youth are shocking:

Only 54% earn a high school diploma, 2% earn a Bachelor’s degree or higher, 84% become parents within 2 years, 51% are unemployed, 30% have no health care, 25% become homeless, and 30% receive public assistance.[2] These children grow up without the support they need to be productive and caring citizens. Furthermore, they grow up not knowing Christ.  This population in our community is ready to be harvested for the Kingdom. 

Consider this analogy: In my role as a parent, I try to raise my children in a greenhouse environment by providing them with enough water, food, sunlight, and spiritual nourishment and protecting them from the harshness of storms, wind, or too much sun.  That way when they enter into the outside world they will be strong and rooted deep in the soil to grow and bear good fruit, providing nourishment for others.  Foster care youth are not in greenhouses.  They are in the desert surviving as a cactus would.  They have too much sun, not enough water, and survive on very little.  They grow thorns to protect themselves from others who try to hurt them.  The foster youth grow thorns for self-preservation and continue through their lives harming themselves and others. 

Our community and our church needs to care for these children and provide them with life-long mentors and “forever families.”  Please consider how you can help.  The number one need is for more people to become foster parents and “forever families” for these children. Can you commit to praying about your fears and see how God calls you to help these children?  

We also want to update the community about Community ONE:27 and what we are planning.  We as a group continue to meet every week to plan and implement programs, workshops, and ideas.  We are currently working on creating a photo gallery, also known as a heart gallery, of SBCC families who have adopted, been adopted or are in the process of adopting.  If you interested in being a part of this please contact Tracy Wilcox at *protected email*.

 In November, we had our first campaign for Soles 4 Souls.  We collected over 700 shoes that were delivered to the Las Vegas distribution center.  We had a great response and blessed many by donating shoes.

On May 22nd, we are hosting our first “Thinking of Adoption or Foster Care?” workshop.  If you are interested in this event, please save this date on your calendar now. 

We will continue to provide updates and announcements as we begin to implement projects and workshops. Thank you partnering with us.

[1]  Needell, B. et al. (2009). Child Welfare Services Reports for California, University of California at Berkeley Center for Social Services Research. Accessed online at http://cssr.berkeley.edu/ucb_childwelfare (Dec. 2009).

[2]  Casey Family Programs National Foster Care Month, Facts About Children in Foster Care, http://www.fostercaremonth.org/AboutFosterCare/StatisticsAndData/Documents/FCM07_Fact_Sheet_(national).pdf (last visited Mar. 23, 2009).