The Forgotten Initiative - Knoxville, TN
We are praying for a national movement among the Body of Christ, that His followers would rise up and serve their local foster care community. God has given each one of us gifts and talents and the needs of the forgotten are as unique as you and I. TFI exists to connect you with those in need and to equip you to make a difference in the lives of the forgotten in your own community! Will you join us?
YOU have a gift...
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." - 1 Peter 4:10
YOU are called to care for the orphan...
"This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." - James 1:27
WE can show you how...
"And if you give yourself to the hungry, And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell." - Isaiah 58:10-12
What's your passion? There are ways for EVERYONE to serve. No matter your talents, no matter your resources, no matter your time, there are SO many ways to serve. You can give of your talents - do you have a gift of organization? You could join us to "stock the shelves" next time we take donations to the office. Do you have artistic skills - painting murals? Making baby blankets? You can give of our resources - maybe you feel called to give monetarily, maybe you love to shop, maybe you love to coupon and have a stash of shower gel collecting dust that would be a God-send for children in need. You can give of your time - even if it's as simple as "liking" or "sharing" our Facebook page - you wouldn't believe the number of messages I've received thru the page from folks with donations who discovered our ministry because they had seen our page on their newsfeed because a friend had liked, shared, or commented on our page. You never know what impact even a small thing can have!
Our Current & Upcoming Initiatives:
Birthday Celebration Initiatives
Never Alone Parenting Program
Foster Parent Appreciation
Our Future Hopeful Initiatives:
Independent Living Assistance
Social Worker Appreciation
Foster Parent Recruitment
Most children come with little to nothing when they're taken into custody. In order to provide them with something they can call their own and to alleviate some of the immediate needs for the foster family to fill, we create "journey bags." We purchase and collect large duffle bags, tote bags, and diaper bags. I usually monogram/appliqué each one for a personal touch as I pray over each and every bag. Next, we collect items to fill these bags. As DCS serves children 0-18, this includes a wide range of items! We help keep the storage room at DCS organized, so as a social worker has a new case they can easily access whatever items that particular child might need, or if they're older, the child can help pick out their bag and items.
Unopened/unexpired Baby Formula
Diapers - all sizes, but especially preemie & newborn
Baby Shampoo & Body Wash
Bottles, Soft Nipple Sippy Cups
For Preschoolers/Grade School:
Shampoo (anything with a coconut scent is a great option as it is a natural lice deterrent)
Hair brushes, combs
Stuffed Animals (new)
Small Picture frames/albums
For Middle Schoolers/Teenagers:
Small Picture frames/albums
Feminine Hygiene Products
Clothing, Pajamas, Hoodies, Coats, Underwear (new) & socks (new), Shoes.
Non-perishable foods (sometimes the wait can be long in finding the right foster family and the kids get hungry!)
Monetary donations (which may be tax deductible) can also be made on-line towards the purchase of bags or any of these items - make sure you designate "Knoxville, TN" in the memo line!
DCS's first goals with at-risk children is to either keep the children with their birth parents without having to remove the children, or place them with family members. There are often simple ways we can help this happen. For example, a family struggles, a neighbor hears about the children next door sleeping on the floor and worries they are being neglected. DCS is called to investigate. The family is struggling financially; they are doing the best to parent the kids as they can. So DCS tries to locate beds for the kids, as well as any other services the family might need to assist them in remaining together. Maybe the situation is worse than that, but family members are willing. Due to the situation, the family may not have been involved or even aware of what was happening with the children. They may be quite unprepared to provide a place to sleep and clothing for the kids on such short notice, but they are family and so they commit to taking these children into their home. Some foster families take in pregnant foster teens. We want to provide these mothers-to-be with all the sweet things you and I might have received at baby showers to care for our little ones. Every life is a gift.
Needs we've received requests for in the past and seem to be ongoing are this:
Baby Monitors (usually not for babies but to maintain safety for kids who are a runaway risk or who have a history of abuse and need extra monitoring for the safekeeping of all members of a home).
Cribs (with the massive recall of drop-side cribs affecting the ability to purchase gently used cribs for a reasonable price as well as the option many families choose to buy beautiful custom cribs which are out of reach for many ministries to purchase 2nd-hand) - these can be difficult to come by for a reasonable price especially for a struggling family! These CANNOT be drop-side cribs.
Matthew 19:14 Ministries
This wonderful ministry was begun recently by a foster family who was able to procure a storage unit. They use the unit as a library, of sorts, for foster families to share and borrow baby equipment. With the uncertainty of how long a placement may stay with you and the uncertainty of what age you might get "next time" - this is a wonderful way to make sure you have all the big equipment likes swings, bouncers, cribs, strollers, etc. that families need but can be a bit overwhelming to buy if you're not sure how long or if you'll need it again. If you have anything you'd like to donate to this ministry, you can connect with them directly thru their Facebook page or I am more than happy to get your items to them for you.
Foster Family Appreciation
We just completed some bags for an upcoming event, but would like to have lots of bags on-hand as foster parents complete their training and become officially licensed. We'd like to let them know we support and pray for them. Ideas for these bags are gift cards to fast food places or coffee (they can certainly use the energy!), small first aid kits, note pads/post-its, a personal note of encouragement, school supplies, devotional book, picture frame, etc. There are some wonderful books on foster and adoptive parenting that I can provide to you if you are interested in purchasing books for this initiative.
We have been working on 5 different beautifications projects involving the DCS office and the Juvenile Court. Some are going along well and progress has been made, some need some prayer to get off the ground, and some need more donation efforts to complete.
1. DCS Office Murals
Base coat painting was completed in the spring in partnership with INASMUCH city-wide service day thru volunteers from Christ Covenant Church as well as DCS foster families. These rooms are SO much cheerier than before! Plans continue for these 4 rooms to receive themed murals for each - a butterfly room, a frog room, a monkey room, and a bird room. This needs some prayer to the designs finalized and some helpers to bring these designs to fruition on the walls. Paint and supply donations will also be needed to make this a reality! These rooms were so very dismal and "office" looking. Let's make these rooms a pleasant place for children to play and work on rebuilding and repairing relationships with their birth families!
2. DCS Visit rooms
Ongoing Visit Room Needs - these rooms get FREQUENT use! Toys & books really get used to their full potential all day everyday from many children. New and great condition toys are always needed to replace broken ones. Careful attention should be paid to choking hazards as young children use these rooms as well. They do have some alternate storage for board games and the like for older kids, but generally, toys for young children should be safe.
3. Juvenile Court
Just like the DCS visit rooms, there are play areas at Juvenile Court. Children are generally required to attend all court cases that involve them. These days can be very long and stressful. Parties are given either a morning time of arrival, and your case is called, when it is called. New and gently used toys & books are also needed here to pass the time.
4. DCS Staff De-Stress Space
This one needs a lot of prayer. We had worked on procuring items to create and wonderful, relaxing, space for staff to de-stress. These dedicated social workers can experience death threats, insults, heart breaks, hurts, joys, and trials in all the same moments during the work day. We want to give them a space to come to take a deep breath, pray and have a few moments to regain their composure, and be encouraged to continue in their fight for safety, love, and security for the kids and families they serve. While we have a lot of things to make this space happen, we are struggling with getting the approvals to juggles some unused storage space around in the office to make it happen. Will you please pray for the "powers that be" to be led by THE Powerful God to allow us to provide this space for them? Further details on remaining items for this project will be made available when we cross this hurdle!
5. DCS Storage Area
This was another project in partnership with the INASMUCH city-wide service day this past spring. We sorted thru box and box of donated clothes and made sure everything was clean, in great condition, and sorted by size and season for easier use. Just like our closets at home, sometimes these areas can get busy and start to get out of hand again, so occasionally assistance may be needed in the future to keep everything easy to find and use.
We have helped a few of our favorite social workers celebrate birthday for a few of their children that really need to know they are special. Each of them were in residential treatment programs as a result of years of abuse and neglect. Because of their current situations, no relatives, gifts, cards or friends would be celebrating their birthdays. We created personalized gifts for each of them. It was an incredible blessing to hear the impact these gifts had on these special girls. One said, "this was the best birthday I've ever had." For another girl, it was the first time her social worker had therapist had EVER seen her smile. We want to be able to offer this help in cases like these where the children aren't in a typical foster family situation. Or may a foster family has only had them a brief time and they are still adjusting. Maybe simply helping provide them with party balloons and decorations to help make their birthday special.
Donations for this initiative could be:
Grocery Store Gift Cards (social workers would be able to pick up a cake/cupcakes)
Never Alone Parenting Program:
This is a new initiative and we are seeking to provide support for pregnant foster teens participating in this program thru Helen-Ross-McNabb. We provide donations for incentives for attendance of the moms-to-be in their classes. Some classes have included scrapbooking and creating memories for their children. Most are introductions to community resources the teens will need as they transition out of foster care to life on their own and as new parents. Diapers are a great need. We've also have opportunities to host baby showers, mentoring, and other supports to these girls.
Our Hopeful Future Initiatives:
Independent Living Assistance
An incredible number of children "age-out" of the foster care system every year without a permanent family. With histories of abuse and neglect, it can be incredible difficult for these survivors to make a life for themselves, find employment, affordable housing, transportation, and bare necessities. We would love to find ways we can partner in support of these children thru mentoring programs and physical resources as well.
Social Worker Appreciation
January 2014 will be the next Social Worker Appreciation month. We desire to find a way to thank these dedicated individuals for their passion and compassion in serving children and families in our community. It is an arduous and often thankless job. We want them to know we are behind them in prayer and in deed.
Foster Parent Recruitment
We pray that as you partner with us in determining and meeting the needs in our community, that some of your hearts will be stirred and led by God to consider opening your home to foster children. If you already are feeling that "still small voice" - I'd LOVE to talk to you about it!
Foster Care Statistics for Knox County:
There are currently 766 children in foster care. Of those in care, 751 are in foster care due to neglect/abuse, the remaining 15 are kids with Juvenile Justice cases.
They received 292 Child Protective Service referrals during the month of March (this is actually on the low-end of what is typical for them). CPS referrals are when folks have reported suspected abuse or neglect to the state.
Of these 292 referrals - 31 were Drug Exposed Infants (hospitals reporting positive drug testing in newborns). 8 of these drug-exposed infants were placed in state custody that month. The ones that were not were likely placed with relatives or sent home with their birthparents with ongoing services.
There are 144 Family Support Service Cases. These are situations like the above, where the children were not removed, but services have been placed in the home and needs met thru agencies so that the families can remain intact.
These updated Statistics are from Community Advisory Board Meeting, courtesy of the Knox County Department of Children's Services 4/18/13
" And if you give yourself to the hungry, And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell."
- Isaiah 58:10-12
Becky Smits, Advocate
The Forgotten Initiative - Knoxville, TN
(865) 719-1265 firstname.lastname@example.org