We ARE stands for "We Achieve Racial Equity." This article casts the vision and provides the core resources and tools for CarePortal field team leaders to understand and participate in the We ARE initiative.
CarePortal network leaders and field team: Area Directors, Regional Managers, Ambassadors
Included in This Article
- What is the "We ARE" Initiative?
- Our 50 in 5 Plan
- Connecting Church
- Church Entered Needs
- A letter from Erika
What is the "We ARE" Initiative?
In the United States, the most common reason children enter the foster care system is unintentional neglect due to poverty. And while Black children constitute 14% of our country's total population of children, they make up 23% of the total number of children in foster care. Such racial disproportionality adversely impacts more than 100,000 children each year, with more than 50,000 children entering foster care every year. We ARE stands for "We Achieve Racial Equity."
The foster system is Ground Zero for systemic change in our nation, change that begins with our most vulnerable children. Eliminating racial disproportionality in the foster system by strengthening families, to dramatically decrease the flow of children into the foster system, is strategically important to more comprehensive systemic change - and is achievable.
Our 50 in 5 Plan
Of the 400,000 children currently in the U.S. foster care system, 50% of them are in just 5% of the counties, totaling 160 counties. These are predominantly communities of color. Our “50 in 5” plan is to:
- Expand into all 160 counties by 2025
- Identify the lowest income zip codes and with highest risk of family breakdown
If 12 churches in each of these zip codes would meet one need a week, the number of kids in the foster care system could be reduced by thousands. Meeting these needs would effectively:
- Help facilitate family preservations by supporting vulnerable families prior to being discovered by child welfare
- Strengthen care by relatives (kinship care) to improve the experience of children already in the system
- Provide encouragement and tangible needs to families making positive advances toward family reunification, thereby reducing the time children are in care
In addition to empowering these local churches, we are committed to supporting our various network leaders as they facilitate cross-cultural conversations and trainings that aim to bring together the experiences and perspectives of the Whole Church in each community.
To view a list of all the 50 in 5 counties, click here.
50 in 5 Map
Click the image above to open the 50 in 5 Map. Click and drag your cursor to highlight the section of the map you'd like to see detailed data for.
- Zip codes highlighted in red represent communities where the median household income is greater than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level or the percentage of families in poverty is 25% or higher
- Zip codes with a black pin in them represent communities with Black Americans making up 40% or more of the population.
Connecting Churches are leading churches in the CarePortal network who become the relational point of care.
- When responses from the community are made to local requests, CarePortal automatically transfers funding for needs to a reloadable debit card of the Connecting Church who takes the lead in serving the family
- CarePortal maintains the accounting and impact tracking so the Connecting Church can focus on fulfilling needs and creating meaningful care connections
Connecting Church Invitation: Erika Glenn & Adrien Lewis (link)
Church Entered Needs
This CarePortal feature allows churches to enter needs of vulnerable children and families from their own congregation in CarePortal.
- Approved needs are distributed to the greater CarePortal network
- CarePortal automatically makes a connection so responders' resources flow to the Connecting Church
A letter from Erika
Dear Local CarePortal Network Leaders,
Churches situated within low-income Black communities are serving children and families in crisis in their congregations and neighborhoods, often with limited resources. CarePortal can be a conduit that connects them together with community responders in a greater way. When care stakeholders are connected – together – in caring for children (and keeping kids out of the foster system), this unity brings about a power that is injected with supernatural capabilities. CarePortal also brings everyday people in the community to serve families with funding and items needed for families in crisis. It also brings local businesses, sporting groups, entrepreneurs, and others to the table to wrap around the local church that is serving the families. This collective coming together to care for children and families, from the inside out, invokes real change in our communities and nation.
With so much to offer, how do you invite and encourage urban churches to trust and use CarePortal?
We must first recognize the enormous value of local community churches in the lowest income zip codes. They are already serving children and families in their communities in sacrificial ways. We are not inviting churches to do the work of CarePortal, but to use CarePortal to do more of the work they are already doing. When we start from a position of value and honor, doors will open.
We must deal with issues of historical distrust, head-on. Many urban churches have been maintaining their faith while standing with struggling parents, grandparents, and kinship care providers “off the grid” with little help from the outside. They have experienced partnership efforts with some suburban churches and well-resourced partners when there was either a condescending air of “we are here to do some charity work that makes us feel good about ourselves” or a white savior dynamic, whether intentional or unintentional. The small urban community church is often seen as if she has nothing to offer but those with more economic resources do. These are not healthy power dynamics. We need to show real honor and value for what local churches in the trenches are already doing with little resources but with powerful faith. We must get back to the basics ourselves, in our own hearts. Do you know what initiates mighty moves of God? It is faith! He does the supernatural and performs miracles on behalf of those who believe that He can. When you have no other resources, you are forced to go to The Source for all things. In many urban community churches in low-income areas, we have seen God part the seas, we have eaten manna from heaven, and we have seen miracles performed. When we had nothing else, we held on to our faith. When we humble ourselves to see faith of church leaders in low places as a powerful asset, trust grows.
One more reason why urban churches are skeptical about inviting “outsiders” into the space of sharing the care of children and families in their communities is fear of what you may see and not understand. Protecting families fighting the best that they can for their kids from further risk and potential condemnation is important to church leaders trying to walk with the families When we do the work to better understand the struggles of children and families in poverty culture, rather than making wealthy family expectations the standard, trust grows.
Another reason for distrust is that while many urban community churches have been scraping by to survive themselves, they have watched as many suburban churches have flourished financially, building bigger and bigger buildings, while saying “we are One in the Body of Christ.” That brings a lot of internal conflict from the perspective of the small community church leaders in the lowest income neighborhoods. Many of the beautiful edifices were built from generational wealth with deep roots all the way back to slavery in this country. We must respond to this dynamic with sustained relationship building. When we do the hard work of building sustainable relationships and pointing the Church United to the opportunity at hand here and now, trust grows.
Can we do anything about the sins of our forefathers? Yes, we can acknowledge them and prepare ourselves for honest dialogue about where we go from here to champion children together. There are many who say that in today’s times we should not still be talking about slavery, and that the original sin of our nation has no bearing on today. But if we were in a race and I gave you a 400-year head start, do you think I can catch up in 70 years? Do you think I could catch up with weights on my ankles like red-lining, unfair lending practices, housing covenant restrictions, less educational resources, discriminatory hiring practices, etc.? These are just a few reasons for the distrust. As a race of people, we are still behind in the race towards the American dream and, more importantly, the race towards shared equality as brothers and sisters in Christ.
To have a fresh start at relationship building, we need to live by the Three C’s – Commitment, Consistency, and Compassion – towards our urban church leaders and their families.
- True commitment to hear them, learn who they are, and listen without a prepared rebuttal. We have to listen even when we don’t totally understand their perspectives. You don’t have to be responsible for someone’s pain to acknowledge and enter into it. We have to be committed to seeing the good in them. Take the time to appreciate their journey. Highlight their strengths and affirm their actions in the community. Listen to what is being said of them in the community. It’s not hard to find the spiritual giants in the community if you have your spiritual eyes open and your ear inclined to the ground to hear the pounding of their mighty footsteps.
- Be consistent. Many start well but eventually drop off. Keep showing up. They have reason to be skeptical. Outlast their skepticism with consistency. Even when you have no words, just be there. Your consistent presence will begin to empower and encourage.
- Lastly, be compassionate. Again, you may not have been a part of the problem but by way of privilege you may have benefited from their problem. If we were sitting on opposite sides of a table with the number 6 placed between us, we would see something different. Based on where you sit, you may see a 6 and I may see a 9. Neither of us is wrong but we have different perspectives because we are seeing things from different angles. What is needed to see things as I see things is a willingness to come over to my side and see what I see, and I need to come alongside you and see what you see. When we do this, I think we all have an “aha” moment that opens the door to real empathy and not sympathy. If you struggle in this area, ask the Father to show you His heart for them. If we can see everyone the way God sees them, we can not only see their strengths, but we can also see their weaknesses. The Lord will birth in you a desire to cover them in love.
Now here’s some bonus advice for reaching out to church leaders in the Black community:
- Many are bi-vocational. They may not be paid church leaders who are available in the middle of the day for a meeting. You may need to contact them in the evenings or even a Sunday morning after service just to get your foot in the door. Be flexible because it’s not easy doing the work of full-time ministry while working a full- time job..
- Community gatherings and exploring CarePortal should be planned in centrally located churches to provide easy access. When the meetings are scheduled on the outskirts of the city or in the suburban areas, you will not have a great presence of urban church leaders.
- Lastly, pull out the mirror to check your posture before engaging. The mirror we all should be using is the Word of God. Examine your heart, your motives, and your words by His Word. Conform to His image of us and execute His plan. See everyone through His eyes and you’ll do great!
As you endeavor to make these crucial inroads and create new relationships, I am privileged to be a sounding board with your honest questions and concerns. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.