To help celebrate the placement by faith-based Harvest of Hope's 1,000th child into a foster family home, a prominent church in New Jersey is giving special recognition during worship services today as part of Martin Luther King's Commemoration Weekend.
"I want to commend Harvest of Hope for their outstanding achievement in providing loving, safe and nurturing homes for 1,000 foster children who are the most at-risk youth in our state. This organization has literally saved a thousand lives and it has saved the state of New Jersey millions of dollars by significantly reducing the number of children in the foster care system," said the Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.
Since 1996, Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc., based in Somerset County, has recruited and trained 435 families to become licensed foster families. The significant milestone for Harvest of Hope was accomplished during last December. Of the 1,000 foster children, 250 were adopted by Harvest of Hope resource families, providing a permanent solution for their need of a loving family, the organization said.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation reported in 2011 that there were 7,018 children in the New Jersey foster care system and close to 800 children awaiting adoption. Harvest of Hope points out that a substantial percentage of youth, who are not adopted prior to aging out of foster care become a part of the homeless population. Across the nation, 20,000 youth "age out" of foster care without stable and lasting families, say officials.
"We are committed to creating opportunities and to advocate for the needs of children in the foster care throughout the state of N.J. – recruiting families to commit to short term and long term responses to their need for care," said Maureen Archibald, executive director of Harvest of Hope Family Services. "I want to thank FBCLG for their ongoing support and recognition of our significant milestone of the placing of the 1,000th child. FBCLG has been recognized nationally for its community outreach efforts and the public is welcome to be a part of this celebration on Sunday."
Archibald added, "We invite the community to join us as we honor the memory of Dr. King in creating opportunities for children and in finding solutions to improving their outcomes."
Harvest of Hope officials state that their organization takes pride in the fact that in more than 14 years it has made a vital contribution in the child welfare system, in securing homes for children entering the foster-care system and in providing permanency for children.
"Our goal was not to watch children growing up in the foster-care system. We are mindful of the temporary status that foster-care often represents, even with the most committed foster parents," Harvest of Hope states. "Seeing children leaving the foster-care system, either by being adopted or returning home to more stable families, is the ultimate reward. The overwhelming cry echoed by children in the foster-care system is the need for stability and a sense of belonging."
In the group's mission statement, Soaries states, "Collectively, our comprehensive network and service resources can affect a long-term system that will increase the number and quality of available resource homes for infants, siblings and displaced children."
On the Web: http://www.harvestofhopefamily.com/.