Families needed for thousands of Kansas children

Grace and Kaleb, seen in this undated photo, are the children of Kristi and Geoff Okwuonu. who adopted them through Catholic Charities of Baltimore. (CNS photo/courtesy Kristi Okwuonu via Catholic Review)

Foster Care and Adoption Awareness Fair May 10

The Respect Life and Social Justice Office is hosting a Foster Care and Adoption Awareness Ministry Fair from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita. The fair will inform individuals and parish leaders about the need and ways to become engaged in foster care ministry, and about where to learn more about the different kinds of adoption. Scheduled to speak are Abbey Dohm of Gathered, Inc.; Judge Kevin Smith, a foster care advocate; Kirk Zahn, of CarePortal; and Debbie Kennedy of the Wichita Children’s Home. Bishop Carl A. Kemme will celebrate Mass at 6:30 p.m.

There are not nearly enough homes for the 7,000 children in foster care in Kansas.

Bonnie Toombs hopes the faithful of the four dioceses in the state will make those children part of their families. The faithful of the diocese will have a chance to make a difference moving forward.

Toombs, the director of the Respect Life and Social Justice Office, said her ministry is trying to increase awareness about how the church can be part of the answer to the thousands of children and youth who need to be in a proper home.

“We have a call to help the widows and the orphans,” she said. “This is naturally a part of a pro-life ministry.”

Her office will be a conduit to help those children, Toombs said. “There’s so much need that there’s literally something everyone can do.”

Those interested can be trained and certified to be a foster care family, or they can sign up with CarePortal.org to provide assistance when a caseworker uncovers a need.

“A parish could sign up with CarePortal,” she said, adding that those interested are invited to a meeting Tuesday, May 10, at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita. There is a critical need for CASA volunteers, she said, adding that court-appointed special advocate volunteers make a life-changing difference for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

The ministry will also assist with educating about the process of adoptions, Toombs said.

“The adoption process can be so daunting – whether you’re trying to adopt through the foster care system, or whether you’re trying to adopt outside of that system,” she said. “What we want to do is help provide information to make that process smoother.”

Her office will provide information and contacts depending on the type of adoption desired.

“I think one of the most beneficial things that we’ve been able to do is set up mentors. We have individuals who have been through the adoption process, both through foster care and other adoptions. They’re willing to sit down to share their story and help folks learn from what they went through.”

Toombs said the office has individuals who have been foster parents who will help those interested in foster care at any stage in the process.

“It’s not just about finding more homes for foster care children – although that is a goal because there’s such a need,” she said, “but it’s also about how we can engage as a Catholic community to better support families in our parishes who are already fostering or are going through the adoption process or have adopted.”

She said the ministry is a way to engage a critical challenge with thousands of children in Kansas.