Care Portal Meets Urgent Needs During Crisis
July 2020 · Foster Care / Adoption, Hi-Lites, Ministry News
Headed for an appointment across town with two little children in the back seat, the last thing Carolyn needed was car trouble. Yet, that’s what she got. Ever since she volunteered to provide kinship care to her 3- and 4-year-old relatives, she’d relied on that car to transport them to doctor appointments, visitations, and case management meetings. Now she had no vehicle. And though she works full-time, the repair costs were way beyond her means. She relayed her predicament to her Saint Francis case worker, who submitted a needs request to CarePortal, and within hours a local church stepped up to pay for Carolyn’s car repairs.
For many Saint Francis workers and the families they serve, CarePortal has been a godsend, especially during the coronavirus crisis when so many are stretched to the limit by stress and economic uncertainty. Founded in Kansas City, Missouri, CarePortal connects churches with child and family welfare agencies to provide material support to foster, kinship, adoptive, and birth families, as well as to teens aging out of the foster care system. Saint Francis Ministries currently partners with CarePortal in six Kansas communities and hopes to soon extend that collaboration into Texas and Nebraska.
Staff at Saint Francis vet every CarePortal request made by a Saint Francis worker. Once they’ve determined a legitimate need, they post the request to CarePortal … and wait. Usually within minutes, several churches respond to meet the need. They can share numberous stories like Carolyn’s.
“That’s what is so beautiful about CarePortal,” said Jae Hedrick, who was previously part of the CarePortal team on the Saint Francis end. “It’s organized so families make an outside connection with a church in their own community. It’s like having someone you can call on when you need a hand. Most of us have someone like that, but the people Saint Francis serves are often isolated and generally turn to government or other agencies for assistance. There’s not anything wrong with that – good people do great work in those agencies – but it’s a special thing when people are served by people who aren’t paid to do it.”
It also saves those other agencies money. To date, material support provided by CarePortal in Kansas alone has kept nearly 1,000 children out of foster care and allowed about 1,200 to remain with their current placement. Help from CarePortal enabled nearly 750 children to reunite with their birth families and almost 70 to join adoptive families. All this has saved the State of Kansas hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as healed families and changed the lives of hundreds of children.
Jae said the key to CarePortal’s success is the relationships it creates and supports. Churches like the program because they know Saint Francis has thoroughly vetted the need. They trust it’s real. And, for those members unable to foster themselves, it offers them a practical way to contribute and lend help.
“That’s why I’m so thankful to be part of this,” said Jae. “These are real human beings taking money from their own wallets or giving extra stuff they have in their garage to meet the needs of people in their community. CarePortal does amazing things by just enabling us all to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Churches are changing the trajectory of at-risk families simply by treating them like human beings.”
Items requested most often through CarePortal are beds, dressers, living room furniture, and car seats. Churches interested in partnering with CarePortal are encouraged to visit careportal.org. The need is especially acute as families try to cope with social isolation and restrictions.