Project 1.27 on the Western Slope
Janet Rowland is the Director for Project 1.27 in the Western Slope. She is also currently the Executive Director for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Mesa County. Previously, Janet worked for Mesa County Department of Human Services in the Child Welfare Division.
Why were you initially interested in bringing Project 1.27 to Mesa County?
Mesa County has long had issues with having enough foster homes. Project 1.27 had a booth at a Denver CASA Conference and there I learned about Project 1.27’s Support Team training. I’d noticed that many foster families stop fostering after one or two placements because of lack of support and liked how that additional support keeps families from burning out. I also liked the idea of getting the church more involved in foster care ministry.
What does Project 1.27 look like in Mesa County?
Through our contract with Mesa County, we have three part-time staff serving in three distinct areas.
Unique to Mesa County, the Kinship Support program is led by Megan Weaver. When kids are removed from their home because of abuse and neglect, often it’s kin, a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin who steps in to provide a safe home. This can be overwhelming, especially when these extended family members have limited resources or live on a fixed income. Along with connecting kinship families to area resources and a Kinship Support Group, our Bare Necessities closets, filled with items donated by local churches, businesses and organizations, provide tangible items like beds, dressers, strollers and diapers. This way our entire community can support kinship families in meeting the needs of traumatized children.
Linde Marshall has been focused on developing a Church Network focused on engaging churches in foster care ministry. We work with Mesa County churches to recruit foster families and start ministries that support foster, kinship and adoptive families. A monthly church network meeting offers an opportunity to update each other on foster care needs and programs. Every month we’ve had new churches attend.
Along with leading Project 1.27’s efforts in Mesa County, I work on General Recruitment of new foster families by creating things like radio and social media ads, and advertising on restaurant table tents, billboards, grocery carts and the local Parks and Recreations Guide. I also work to get foster and kinship human interest stories sent to local media outlets. All this raises awareness of the needs, issues and opportunities to serve children and families involved in the foster system.
What are some highlights of Project 1.27 Western Slope’s first 18 months?
- Developing a core network of churches! Leaders from 12-15 churches regularly participate in our monthly Church Network meetings and 10-15 other churches are involved in special projects and recruiting efforts.
- Seeing the Kinship Support Group grow! When we started the kinship support group, it was hard to even get families to return a phone call. Only three adults attended the first meeting. Now 30 adults and about 30 kids attend monthly. Project 1.27 works with local churches to provide dinner, childcare, special speakers and stress-relieving activities for adults and kids. In December, the families participated in Grand Junction Rocks, painting, hiding and looking for rocks with encouraging and inspiring messages around our community. The kids loved it!
- In terms of General Recruitment, I’m excited that Mesa County Department of Human Services has been seeing an increase in families inquiring about becoming foster parents.
How have Mesa County churches become involved?
Churches in Mesa County hold monthly drives to collect needed resources for foster and kinship families. One month, churches collect socks and pajamas; the next month it might be diapers and wipes. These items are stored in four Bare Necessities closets located in churches around Mesa County. Kinship and foster families utilize the Bare Necessities closets to provide for the children in their homes.
Network churches make sure their congregations know about upcoming Project 1.27 Info Nights and training, working to recruit new Christian foster and adoptive families.
What has surprised you most on this journey?
While we already have a group of excellent churches in our network, it’s taken much longer than I thought to get churches (and families) involved. I’m surprised so many churches have no interest at all in providing protection and provision to these vulnerable children in our community.
What is your dream for Project 1.27 Western Slope?
I’d love to see more churches actively engaged in recruiting and supporting foster and kinship families. Ideally there would be no Mesa County kids placed outside our county. Instead, Mesa County would have enough great foster families that kids could even stay within their school districts.
In the last four months, even infants and toddlers have been placed in foster homes outside of Mesa because there are no available spaces in Mesa County. One story is particularly troublesome. Five siblings had to be placed with four different foster families living in three different counties (Garfield, Delta and Mesa). Those children experience an additional trauma of being separated from siblings.
Currently there are only about 100 foster families in Mesa County. I’d like Project 1.27 to add at least 20 new families each year! That’s the dream.
How can we pray for you and others working so kids in Mesa County have great local kinship and foster families?
Pray God would prepare potential foster family’s hearts ahead of time so when we lay out this opportunity, they will be primed and ready to step forward
Pray God would work in pastor’s hearts so each one would understand the need and opportunity to share Jesus’ love with hurting kids and then get the church involved in foster care ministry.Tags: Miscellaneous