Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc. (HOH) announced today that it will hold a statewide summit May 6, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona to train pastors and other church leaders on how to grow foster care ministries in their churches. Too many Arizona foster care children live in group homes and the pressing goal is to recruit more families to provide foster homes for these children. The effort is part of a national push to provide better support for and dramatically reduce the number of children in foster care in America.

There are more than 428,000 children in foster care in America and nearly 16,000 in Arizona. Yet, America has nearly 300 times the number of homes needed to provide temporary or permanent and loving families for foster children. HOH Founder and CEO DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., believes this is a solvable problem that Americans should be morally compelled to fix.

“We have to change a culture that treats children as disposable,” Soaries said. “America’s foster care system is broken yet this is an issue that government doesn’t have to fix if faith-based organizations and individuals partner and do their share.”

Heightened attention has been drawn to Arizona’s group homes in the past year due to issues including sexual abuse investigations and state action to improve group home care. Soaries said Arizona Governor Douglas Ducey has been a terrific advocate for children and his staff are working diligently to reduce backlogs and make other improvements. He called for faith-based communities, in particular, to become even greater partners for children.

The Foster Care Ministry Summit takes place, during National Foster Care Month, May 6 from 9 AM to Noon at First Institutional Baptist Church, 1141 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85034. The summit includes special training sessions for pastors, who will lead the charge and support church efforts, and for potential ministry leaders, who will do the leg work to get the church ready for recruiting and supporting foster families. The event is free and required registration is available via: http://bit.ly/2pelpKW.

Warren Stewart, Jr., the founder and lead pastor of The Church of the Remnant who also serves on the Governor’s Council for Child Safety and Family Empowerment, said he is one of the key event planners because of the obvious need to do more.

“The HOH Foster Care Ministry Summit is the catalyst to the crisis in Arizona where the church reclaims our village as faithful families to foster children,” Stewart said. “If the government is looking to the church to be the church, then we should take that as a clarion call and a sign that God has called us to do something greater than just having church service — we should be a serving church.”

There are many studies that show the negative effects of foster care on children. According to ChildTrends.org, children who experience foster care tend to exhibit more behavioral and emotional problems, physical and mental health challenges, and poorer educational outcomes than children who do not. Minority children are over represented in the system. Older youth who exit the foster care system because they “age out” (reach the maximum age for foster care in their state) are at particular risk for problems later in life, especially related to finding employment, accessing safe and stable housing, and involvement in the juvenile or adult justice systems.

About Soaries:

Rev. Dr. DeForest B. “Buster” Soaries, Jr., is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, the Founder of the dfree® Global Foundation, Inc., and former New Jersey Secretary of State. His pastoral ministry focuses on spiritual growth, educational excellence, economic empowerment and faith-based community development. Known as a change agent and highly-sought speaker, Soaries created Harvest of Hope Family Services, Inc. in New Jersey in 1996.

About HOH:

HOH’s mission is to create solutions that remove the barriers that threaten the life-long self-sufficiency and success of youth in foster care. With an immediate priority of adding 10,000 new homes by year-end 2020, (or 20,000 Homes) our goal is to train churches and communities to provide qualified, long-term, loving foster family homes, specifically for the placement of minority and hard-to-place foster children, and to train churches and communities to facilitate successful aging out from those homes, either through ongoing support or adoption.