Crossroads NOLA: Connecting Children to Families
Who speaks for the 400 children in foster care in the New Orleans region? Innocents all, these children were removed from their parents because of abuse or neglect. They remain among the most vulnerable in our community.
A relatively new organization called Crossroads NOLA has emerged as a strong voice and faithful advocate for foster children. Funded by Baptist Community Ministries with a community health grant, Crossroads NOLA successfully recruits foster and adoptive parents and supports foster children and parents through a growing network of local churches.
A shortage of foster families remains a stubborn long-term problem in Louisiana. Numbers of foster children continue to increase for many reasons, including a rise in heroin addiction in rural areas.
Explains Crossroads NOLA Executive Director Anna Palmer, “Statewide, on any given day there are 4,800 children in foster care and only 2,200 certified foster families. We want to flip that script.” The lack of foster families means children are often moved around geographically and can go from family to family rather than experiencing the stability of one foster home. Only foster teens live in group homes.
How does Crossroads NOLA flip this script? While only the state Department of Children and Families can formally certify foster parents and place abuse or neglected youngsters, Crossroads NOLA actively assists this process. Its staff recruits foster parents, guides parents through the certification process, promotes adoption for foster children eligible for permanent homes and generally spreads the word
among its church network about the joys of fostering and adoption children in need. In 2015, the organization recruited about 15 new foster families and grew its network of about 35 local churches that care for foster families in innovative ways.
“When you ask a family to foster a child, it’s a big ask,” says Palmer. She points out that while recruiting foster families is a primary goal, there are other ways to make a difference, including offering meals and support for foster families, serving as a court-appointed advocate for children or making a financial gift. The organization has a wide array of educational material and videos designed to raise awareness about the challenges foster children face.
A church network is the foundation for their efforts. Beginning as a First Baptist Church ministry, Crossroads NOLA partners with churches that have similar faith doctrines, following the Biblical directive to care for the orphan and the child in need. Partner churches agree to host a Crossroads NOLA recruiting event to raise awareness about foster care ministry. From there, the ministries differ by congregation.
Early on, Crossroads NOLA saw that by affiliating with the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and adding a social worker to their staff, they could be more effective in easing the certification process for foster families and acting as advocates. This has worked well, giving parents a personal resource and shortening what can be a daunting process.
Single persons as well as married couples can foster a child. Requirements include being 21 and older, good mental and physical health and the willingness to love and protect a child in great need.
Six Ways To Love Children In Foster Care
Crossroads NOLA offers these options to congregants in its partner churches.
Become a certified foster parent or a foster-to-adoption parent.
- Become a family partner.
- Serve as a court-appointed special advocate to support foster children in the court system.
- Provide meals to foster families.
- Volunteer for special projects to support foster families.
- Become a financial partner.
“Asking a family to foster a child is a big ask.”
Crossroads NOLA supports families who say yes and enlists others in its church network to help.
Heart Gallery Promotes Adoption For Eligible Foster Children
Helping to find adoptive parents for children whose parental rights have been terminated is part of Crossroad NOLA’s ministry.
Visit crossroadsnola.org/heart-gallery to meet some of these children.