Hope Encounter lays out ways to help children

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FORTVILLE — Some topics can’t be boiled down to a five- or 10-minute announcement on Sunday morning.

Tina Kerfoot has served as a foster parent, and sometimes her church would welcome a speaker to share about foster care during a service.

Yet there was more to tell — more about the needs of vulnerable children, and more about the different ways and roles in which people could help.

“That wasn’t enough time to help people truly understand the magnitude of the problem,” she said.

So when she heard about a program that pairs people sharing their stories with an information fair on different ways to respond, she was interested.

So was her church — and several other churches.

The churches of Fortville Christians Unite are working with Hands of Hope to bring its Hope Encounter to the area. It’s set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at Mercy Road Church Northeast in Fortville.

The features personal stories from Hoosiers — someone who spent time in foster care growing up, or someone with firsthand experience of adoption, or someone who’s sought to care for families welcoming children in need.

“They one at a time share their story of what it was like and what their challenges were,” said Kerfoot, pastor of children and families at New Life Christian Fellowship.

Afterward, organizations that serve vulnerable children will have information booths about ways to help. The participating churches will provide snacks. There’ll be information on adopting and serving as foster parents, but there will also be details on other ways to help.

For example, some communities have a house — such as the Isaiah 117 House in Marion County or the Cooper House in Hamilton County. When children have been removed from their home, a caseworker can take them there, and while they make calls and work on placement in one room, the child can find a homey atmosphere with options such as taking a nap, having a snack or playing a board game with a volunteer.

Hands of Hope champions Care Communities, in which a team of volunteers comes around a foster family with practical service such as delivering a meal, helping with laundry or providing transportation.

“About 50 percent of foster families quit within one year,” said Rachel Reames of Josiah White’s, a licensed child placing agency that trains foster parents. With a Care Community in place, though, “when you really get the community involved, you really are looking at the longevity and health of a foster family,” she said.

“… And that’s going to be producing better outcomes, not only for the children in their care, but also the families they’ll be impacting.”

Reames said helping children in vulnerable situations is a preventive step against other issues such as poverty and teen pregnancy. “Seventy percent of women who age out of foster care become pregnant within a year,” she said.

Both women hope seeing the various capacities in which people can serve will be motivating.

“This is really an experience that the church has been needing,” Reames said, “that the community has been needing.”

“Our goal,” Kerfoot said, “is just to raise awareness for how much need there is for vulnerable kids in our area and to see what we can do to make a difference.”

HOPE ENCOUNTER

When: 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 13

Where: Mercy Road Church Northeast in Fortville

What: “A powerful, creative storytelling experience designed to enlighten, inspire and move people to action on behalf of Indiana’s vulnerable children,” according to a flyer for the event