ALPHARETTA — Last year FaithBridge Foster Care began switching much of its training to a digital format. That move, says CEO Bob Bruder-Mattson, positioned the organization to respond to a pandemic that has exponentially raised the need for foster care.
“The Lord had been laying some things on our heart, so we started talking to others like [the North American Mission Board] and [Georgia Baptist Executive Director] Thomas [Hammond]. We wanted to know how we could do more.
“We had already started switching to be more digital, but the Lord impressed on us to increase that in order to provide more resources and training for foster families. He had been laying out these plans before the coronavirus [pandemic].”
In May, FaithBridge announced it had trained a record number of those interested in becoming foster parents. That came about due to the expected need related to COVID-19 and the stress on families. While reports of abuse have gone down, those in the industry point toward the fact that reporters are primarily teachers, coaches, and others who maintain constant contact with children. Those contact points were shut down by the coronavirus. In addition, the pressures of a fledgling economy and pandemic have almost certainly impacted peace in the home.
Help to start the foster care journey
As such, Georgia Baptists are among those being called on to step in the gap for children needing foster care.
“Ministries like FaithBridge help the Body of Christ navigate the foster care system,” said Lorna Bius, mobilizer for Mission Georgia. “The online training will help more believers start their foster care journey.
“Mission Georgia is working to connect churches with ministries like FaithBridge to equip those who feel called to foster care.”
Foster care is one of the five areas of focus for Mission Georgia. The others are human trafficking, childhood literacy, pre/post-natal care, and refugees and internationals.
Bruder-Mattson stated that FaithBridge experienced a 163 percent increase in those signing up to become foster parents this spring compared to the same period last year. The digital steps previously put into place, he noted, allowed virtual training sessions to proceed uninterrupted. Between March and the end of April, the organization trained 124 people compared to 47 during the same time period in 2019.
“People are focusing on what is important during this time, and giving back to others such as fostering a child who has been neglected or abused is one way that they can serve others,” he said. “People feel called to do this because of their faith.”
FaithBridge partners with 55 churches throughout metro Atlanta and 17 North Georgia counties in recruiting foster parents and others who can support through other means.
FaithBridge, Georgia’s largest faith-based and Christ-centered foster care ministry, recently finished its June class for foster training. Information on upcoming opportunities is available on its website.
Since the beginning [of the coronavirus shutdown] we’ve taken in 43 children,” said Bruder-Mattson. Those placements, he added, weren’t new ones but from another place like a foster home or group home.
Over the last 36 months, more than 10 percent of the foster parents in Georgia have been licensed through FaithBridge, said Bruder-Mattson. Typically, the organization licenses 100 families a year.
October will bring The FaithBridge Institute, held at First Baptist Church in Woodstock. That training will continue through videos of the speakers helping foster care parents continue in their training.
That training begins with Encounter, an introduction to becoming a foster parents. It continues with Foundations, both offered through FaithBridge.
“We’re going to help you,” said Bruder-Mattson. “If you’re curious, go to Encounter. Pray about it. See if the Lord will lead you.”