Submitted by: Lauren Galenkamp; Community Development Worker with Forever Families of Canada


There is this gap.

I am sure you have seen it before. The Christian Church wants to be the hands and feet of Jesus to their community around them. They have a deep commitment to building healthy and wholesome families and communities. They often have an abundance of conviction and enthusiasm, BUT they don’t know where to start

The world of social justice and charity can feel overwhelming. There are so many options of where to get involved and how. Doing a fundraiser is great, but are you fostering relationships with the recipients? Doing a food or clothing drive is good, but how is the church learning to walk alongside the people who are in need of that support?

Often when we look closer at issues of justice and care for our communities, we recognize how interconnected many aspects of poverty are. These aspects create cycles that are very difficult to leave behind. One crucial characteristic of those who are able to step out of those cycles of poverty is the presence of healthy and supportive relationships and community.

INTRODUCING FOREVER FAMILIES OF CANADA

Forever Families of Canada (FFC) aims to connect, equip, and mobilize the Christian Church to effectively journey with vulnerable children and their families. They do this through two main strategies: the CarePortal platform and CareWell Academy.

For the past year, FFC has been piloting an online platform called CarePortal. The CarePortal platform acts as a bridge in the gap between vulnerable children and families and the local church. They do this by partnering with local child-serving organizations. These local organizations see where the needs are but often do not have the resources and capacity to address all of them. This creates a unique space for the church, through CarePortal, to step into their God-given calling to love their neighbours as themselves. It also creates a deeper unity amongst local churches as they work together to fill the requests in their local communities.

With heightened needs within their communities, particularly during the pandemic, Winnipeg churches continue to respond to requests in safe ways. PHOTO: Ana Petter

Because FFC believes that true transformation comes through relationship-building, they have also developed CareWell Academy. They offer training in 4 key competencies: Understanding Poverty, Trauma Care, Cultural Mindfulness, and Healthy Collaboration. These 4 areas help empower individuals and groups to enter into relationships with the necessary tools to love people in ways that are healthy, supportive, and helpful. Jesus came into this world to meet us where we’re at. That is the kind of love that the church is to reflect: a love that meets people where they are at, not where we want them to be.

CAREPORTAL IN ACTION

In Winnipeg, a church received a request for some baby items for a mother who was reuniting with her child. Instead of just setting up a donation bin, the church decided to throw her a baby shower. Amazingly, the foster parents of the child were actually members of the congregation that held the baby shower! It was a beautiful celebration with both foster and biological families present as they showered this mother and baby with support and gifts.

WHERE DOES CAREPORTAL OPERATE?

When CarePortal expanded into Canada, it was first launched in Winnipeg in November of 2019. In the initial year of operating, nine (9) churches in Winnipeg served over 200 children and youth.

Despite the pandemic, the amount of requests filled increased after COVID-19 hit. CarePortal has proven to be a way for churches to still embody what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus during a global pandemic and in a safe ways.

As you can imagine, it is unique for a pilot program to spend most of its first year in a global pandemic. Interestingly, the amount of requests filled increased after COVID-19 hit. CarePortal has proven to be a way for churches to still embody what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus during a global pandemic and in a safe ways. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the local Children and Family Services (CAFS) have begun to rely heavier on churches to help vulnerable families. This means that there is even more opportunity for the church to step up. FFC in Winnipeg hopes to grow and engage 10 new churches in 2021, as well as invest more into education and training for partner churches. 

CarePortal has also been developing in southern Manitoba over the past few years, specifically in Winkler, Morden and Altona. The local CAFS have been enthusiastic about working with the local church. They initially reached out to FFC as a trusted way to connect with churches while also having the best interests of vulnerable children and their families. This area hopes to begin a pilot period with 3 churches and 1 agency and hire a regional manager to continue the development of this area.

Eric Edwards came on board in the beginning of 2020 to head up Eastern Canada and to specifically look at launching CarePortal in Ontario. Despite 2020 looking a bit different than anticipated, Eric and his team in Ontario were still able to engage with over 20 churches and 16 child-serving organizations within the Niagara and Hamilton Regions. A handful of those churches and organizations have filled out applications to receive training in the beginning of 2021. Ontario hopes to be operating with 12 churches in each region and raise the funds to launch fully in both areas.

Since June of 2020, Jessica de Schepper has been working to develop CarePortal in Regina. Saskatchewan has historically had a difficult time integrating the church into the child welfare system. CarePortal has been a huge innovation in this area. At present, they have one church and one agency enrolled and ready to start filling requests. The Regina team is working hard to build a community connections team to help bring awareness, increase the amount of churches utilizing the CarePortal platform and make the project more sustainable. They are also intentionally taking time to grow relationships with local reserves.

YOUR DIACONATE CAN GET INVOLVED TODAY!

Forever Families has found that one of the most crucial pieces to caring for people well is proximity. Proximity helps cut down stigmas and preconceived ideas. Proximity makes systemic issues easier to see and understand. Proximity is how we experience what it is like to love people like Jesus did. If the Church desires to be more like Jesus, maybe the first step is by getting just a little bit closer to those outside of our comfort zones.

If your church or diaconate would like to learn more about Forever Families of Canada or CarePortal and their developments, you can join our mailing list here or contact us at info@foreverfamilies.ca or visit our website: foreverfamilies.ca.

Or contact them in your area! Is your church in…

  1. Winnipeg? Contact our Winnipeg team: heather@foreverfamilies.ca
  2. Southern Manitoba? Contact our team: wendi@foreverfamilies.ca
  3. Hamilton or Niagara in Ontario? Contact our Ontario team: eric@foreverfamilies.ca
  4. Regina? Contact our Saskatchewan team: jessica@foreverfamilies.ca

If you would like to support our national team as they continue to build and develop, you can donate here.