Baptist Children’s Ministries Plan for Uncertain Future

“I want a Christian family,” Kevin told the KOLR TV audience in Decmeber. “Just get ahold of Ms. Krystal and tell her that you want to adopt me, and she’ll try to get it figured out.” Kevin has been affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home for 10 years. Screen capture from KOLR

Religious liberty can seem an abstract concept, but consider Kevin.

Kevin is one of more than 13,000 children in Missouri’s foster care system. Kevin has been waiting for adoption since he was 6. That was 10 years ago. Back in December, Kevin appeared on KOLR Channel 10 in Springfield, Mo. In a weekly segment, the station features foster kids like Kevin, who are in search of a home and forever family.

After footage rolled of Kevin working behind the scenes at school theatrical productions and taking a turn at the weather man’s green screen, he looked at the anchor interviewing him about what kind of family he might want and asked a question: “Can I say something?”

“Of course,” she said, as Kevin turned to face the camera.

“I want a Christian family,” the high school sophomore said. “Just get ahold of Ms. Krystal and tell her that you want to adopt me, and she’ll try to get it figured out.”

“Ms. Krystal” is Krystal Neal, Kevin’s caseworker and an employee of the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home Children and Family Ministries (MBCH), which handles Kevin’s case through a contract with the state. Because of MBCH’s mission to serve God by responding to the needs of children, youth and families, thousands of foster kids like Kevin have been served not just by the Department of Social Services, but by caseworkers and foster families that know a God-centered family is the one that works best.

During 2019, MBCH helped 187 children find permanent homes (76 reunified with family, 24 through guardianships, and 87 through adoption). More than a thousand families were part of the MBCH extended family through the foster care, crisis pregnancy and human trafficking rescue ministries. Each person touched by MBCH heard the Gospel.

Kevin’s story caused nearly every eye to tear up during the Jan. 28 MBCH trustee meeting. But even as they prayed for a family for Kevin and praised God for the Christian influence he clearly has in his life, they contemplated a time when state regulations may make such work difficult or even impossible.

Trustees began developing a five-year strategic plan for MBCH and its affiliates to be finalized by the end of the year. Threats from those who feel Christian values and mission do not have a place in the public sphere means this strategic plan is coming at a crucial time.

For example, MBCH and its subsidiary ministries receive funding through the Cooperative Program (Southern Baptists’ unified giving channel) and the Missouri Missions Offering, as well as through gifts and donations from individuals.

While these are vital sources of funding, the bulk of funding comes from bidding on contracts through the state’s Department of Social Services. Should a day come when the state or federal overseers object to MBCH’s enforcement of its statement of faith on its employees and integrating it into its services, the entity must develop a plan to continue serving with dramatically reduced revenue streams.

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Source: Baptist Press