By CLINT FOSTER
The impact one family can have on a child's life is nothing short of astronomical. But what about children who don't have forever families?
According to the Children's Bureau, an estimated 400,540 children were in foster care on Sept. 30, 2011. A startling statistic to consider that many children in the United States could not live with either their own mother or father or both.
But perhaps what is more startling is this need is just as apparent in our own backyards. According to the Texas Baptist Home for Children, around 55 children in Palo Pinto County alone are in need of foster homes and there's something you might be able to do to help.
What gets lost in that national statistic is that many families opened their homes to children in need, if only for a little while.
On Monday at 7 p.m., Mineral Wells First Baptist Church will host the first of three monthly orientations for TBHC to educate local families on the specifics of foster care and if they could help.
FBC Pastor Nathan Buchanan said the meetings will last no more than an hour, with some time afterward for questions. Although he said it is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, he said he believes foster care is a calling for many people as Christians.
"James 1:27 talks about taking care of the widows and the orphans," he said. "I believe it's a call for us as Christians, followers of Christ, to do that and find a way to provide for their need."
Of the 55 children in need of foster care in Palo Pinto County, only around five have found homes. The remaining 50 have been temporarily relocated to areas in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex or as far away as Austin and Houston.
"We're praying for 50 families," Buchanan said. "Fifty homes that would come out of these orientation meetings."
This issue is one that holds a special place in the heart of the Buchanan family. Nathan and his wife are in the process of adopting a child. It is through their agency in College Station that they heard about TBHC and the serious local need for foster homes. Since then, Buchanan has done everything he can to raise awareness, even bringing the issue before the local Ministerial Alliance.
For those who cannot attend the first orientation on Monday, there will be two others: one at Mineral Wells Church of God on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. and the last at Indian Creek Baptist Church on Nov. 3 at 6 p.m.
Buchanan hopes these meetings will enlighten people to both the challenges and the rewards of foster care, but most of all the dire need for it.
"[People] definitely need to have their eyes open to what it all means to be a foster family," he said. "I believe these meetings will help do that. It's not an easy thing. It does effect your life. It effects your family, especially if you have kids. It's not something that anyone should take lightly. But I believe the benefits are tremendous, not just on this one child that you would be helping, but also on your own family."