The CarePortal platform exists to create connections of many kinds. Most of these connections will inevitably involve families and children who are in extremely delicate and sensitive circumstances, making the way church responders use media and share the stories of their experience and relationship to the families extremely important. We believe sharing stories is impactful and essential for both celebrating God’s work and inviting others to join. We believe every child and adult, created in God’s image, should be treated with kindness and respect. While we will not gloss over the tough, real struggles and pain, we should always choose to tell stories in a way that fosters dignity and highlights hope, avoiding the temptation of making generalizations.
This article explains some standard guidelines and best practices that will help churches protect the dignity and safety of the families and kids they serve while also stewarding these powerful stories well. The official procedure is included for when stories are shared publicly.
CarePortal Churches & Local Network Leaders
Included in This Article
- Standard Guidelines
- Best Practices for Collecting & Sharing Stories
- Using Photos & Video Effectively
Our media policy for all children and families is reflective of the most protective laws of foster children. Laws regarding sharing foster children’s photos and stories vary state-to-state. Regardless of legislation, as a team, we want to take responsibility for protecting all children and families whose needs have been entrusted to us through our CarePortal relationships. There are many reasons why keeping the utmost confidentiality for children in foster care matters, including their physical protection from anyone the state has deemed a danger to them. Therefore, as a platform, we take extra precautions when sharing photos or names of any families served through CarePortal, regardless of the state law.
Best Practices for Collecting & Sharing Stories
Here are three general best practices that will set you and your teams up to make room to offer meaningful connections with families in a respectful way that will leave them feeling glad they invited your team into their home.
- Leave the camera at home or in the car
Your primary goal is to be fully present and connect with the family. Even asking the family's permission to take a photo may not represent the empowerment you think it does because they may feel as if they can't say "no" without disrespecting you or your team in a moment where you are helping them. You may unknowingly be making it very difficult to build a genuine relationship.
A sample outline of a story-telling video is provided below
- Be curious to learn, ready to listen, and model vulnerability
The only thing you can know with certainty about any family with a CarePortal request is this: much more is going on under the surface than what you are able to know. The same is true, of course, for the family and what they can possibly know about your past. When you meet and interact with families, take a posture of humble curiosity to learn about their story (as much as they're comfortable sharing) and share some of your own where it's relevant. Ask respectful questions, listen intently, and commit yourself to being a good steward of what they trust you with.
- Honor the family's dignity when sharing the story with others
If speaking about your experience and telling their story to others later on, do not use identifying information but speak as if they are in the room listening to what you're saying. Keep their dignity and potential friendship in mind, rather than focusing on how grateful they were, their messy background, or how self-sustainable they are (which should not be used to even indirectly measure how "successful" meeting the request was).
Using Photos & Video Effectively
The video below outlines some of the important considerations every Church should consider in regard to taking photos of the families they serve through CarePortal. It's important to consider how taking and posting photos of a care connection might work against the trust and relational value that responders are working to create.
Sample Video Outline or Photo Themes
The following outline is an example of best practices for a church team to share a story of responding to a CarePortal request through video or photos.
1. Introduction Footage
A video could begin by interviewing the person who responded to the request. This section of the video answers questions like:
- What caused you to choose this request?
- What are your reactions to the information received about the family before meeting them?
- What are the thoughts and feelings your team has in anticipation of helping the family?
2. Preparation Footage
Video footage or photos can be taken of the team as they prepare the items. This could include shots of the team loading the items into a truck, talking with community partners, making phone calls, etc. Additional photos or footage could be collected from the passenger seat of the car as the team leader is driving to the family. On camera interviews during this time could answer questions like:
- How did you prepare? (Deciding who would join you, what each person's focus would be, etc.)
- What do you hope to see happen? What are your expectations for how this may stretch you, your team, your church?
- What are your plans to connect and remain engaged with the family?
3. Family Interaction Substitute
No photos should be taken of the family or in the family's home. For video storytelling, this part of the story could be represented by a black screen and some simple text:
"To protect and honor the family, no video footage was
collected from the team's interactions with them."
4. Debrief/Reaction Footage
Concluding video footage could be taken after the team leaves the family's home. This could be for the purpose of directly inviting other people at the church to get involved, or responding to questions like:
- What did you notice about the community, the agency, or other supports in place?
- In what ways were you able to connect with the family?
- What did this interaction show you about yourself?
- How is God moving in your heart regarding staying connected to the family and community?