ROANOKE, Va. – “There’s a foster care crisis in America. There’s a foster crisis in Virginia and there’s a foster care crisis in our community,” said Ray Moore, the Regional Manager for CarePortal in the Roanoke Valley. “Foster care is ground zero for impacting our communities and changing the way things happen.”
Not everyone is called to foster or adopt children, and that’s OK. But there are really easy ways to help the families that are, by donating your time, items or even money.
“I had to get my grandchildren because it wasn’t a safe environment they were living in. So I filed for custody, and got it,” said Rebecca Ayers, whose three grandchildren have been living with her for more than two years now. “I had nothing when I got them. The parents wouldn’t let me take clothes or anything.”
It was rocky at first, but now 11-year-old Layla Ayers says, “It’s really starting to feel truly like home.”
“Yeah, a big improvement from where I lived before,” agreed her sister, Isabelle Ayers, who is 13 years old.
“I don’t make a whole lot, and I do get a widow’s pension, but it’s still a lot that my income doesn’t cover,” explained their grandmother.
A program called CarePortal fills the gaps with things like gas money, clothes or meals. The day we were there, the Ayers family got a new washer.
“Sometimes it feels like life or death because, you know, sometimes if it wasn’t for them, the light bill wouldn’t get paid. I do get some food stamps, but not enough to feed three active kids. So sometimes that runs out, and then I have to take part of my paycheck to buy groceries and that takes it away from a bill,” Rebecca Ayers said.
In the foster/adoption world, there’s an idea that not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone can do something and CarePortal is that something. A lot of times, there’s a church on the street and maybe four doors down, there’s a family that’s in need, and the two don’t know about each other. So CarePortal connects those things to try to bring support to families, and so that they don’t have to have their children go into foster care.Ray Moore
The requests made through CarePortal can include just about everything, according to Moore.
“It starts with diapers, bus passes and our largest request was for $11,000 to re-roof the house,” he said.
Another family needed a well after they had been without water for a year.
“It runs the whole gamut. Beds are probably the most common thing,” said Moore.
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Here’s how it works:
- An agency, like the department of social services or the rescue mission, will put the request on the CarePortal website.
- You can sign up to respond to the needs as an individual, church or organization.
- Then, you start responding to requests.
Since CarePortal launched in Central Virginia in 2020, they’ve served more than 3,000 children with an economic impact of $1.3 million. While the economic impact is huge, it goes beyond that.
It’s absolutely about keeping families together. We want to serve at various stages of families’ lives. For example, we want to support families upriver before the children go into foster care. We want to make sure that they’re supported and the children never have to go in. Then when they do go into foster care, we want to be there to support the foster family. For foster families, 50 percent of them quit after the first year. They need wraparound care. They need the church to come in and support them in doing this challenging work.Ray Moore
The kindness goes a long way for the Ayers family.
“They have helped us with clothing, bills, so many things. I will want to do something for them when I’m older, like figure out who helped us when I’m older and try to give something back to them and try to help them out,” said Layla.
And it’s keeping them together.
“Nanny is absolutely amazing. I would do anything for her in the entire wide world. I really love her so much. And yes, she has gone through a lot. But so have we, so we all help each other in this house. No matter what. Family’s always family,” said Layla.
There are some limitations. There is always a need for more people to sign up to answer the requests, as more agencies join and add needs to the CarePortal. Churches only have so much time and money to give throughout the year without being stretched thin.
You don’t have to be part of a church to get involved. You can join any team, or choose to get involved in several other ways. To see what’s needed in your region, head to careportal.org, zoom in on your area, and you’ll see all the requests there. You can click on a request and it will tell you all about it and you can respond right there. You can choose “I can fund up to this amount” and then a church will make the delivery.
This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help at SolutionariesNetwork.com.