A key objective of 4KIDS this year is to multiply advocates for kids in crisis. Fonda Huizenga is doing just that–she’s a woman on a mission. Below is an edited transcript of a message Fonda recently shared with civic and business leaders in Palm Beach County.
I know a family that earns $21,700. Last year they spent $38,200. That left them with $16,500 of new credit card debt. But they already had a balance of $142,710. So they decided that this next year they would reduce their spending. By $385.
It’s us. The United States. Even with income tax increases, spending cuts are going to happen, and they will trickle down from the national level to state, to county, and then to city. Regardless of your political leanings, we can agree that in times of economic distress, human needs don’t go away–they increase.
Every day in South Florida, seven children are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. There are currently 3,600 of these modern-day orphans in the foster care system. Last year, 124 of these children were moved OUT of South Florida because there aren’t enough foster care homes.
These are OUR children. They are the future of OUR community. But without a family to look after them, fewer than 50% will graduate from high school; 75% of them will experience unemployment; 25% of the boys and 10% of the girls will be incarcerated within 18 months of leaving the foster care system. Guess where? Right here in South Florida.
We own these kids now while they’re children; we will own them and the baggage they carry later as adults. I want to fix this problem while they are young. NOW. And here’s my simple point: This is not the government’s problem; it’s OURS. We need to step up and take responsibility for our own children.
So what do we do? Three steps. GIVE. LEAD. SERVE. First, we GIVE. The Bible tells us numerous times to care for the orphans. We’re told us that God can’t bless us unless we do. The average rate of philanthropic giving across the US is 2 ½%. That’s a far cry from the generosity God calls us to. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but when you give of your treasure, you own the blessings that come as a result.
LEAD. This is not about a position. It’s about service. Join one of the groups that support 4KIDS in the business or church community. Use your time, your talents, your intellect. Stand up for what is right and be willing to be accountable.
SERVE. Simply put, get out there. You don’t have to be able to stroke a $25,000 check to make an eternal impact. These children need homes, they need prayer, they need individuals who will support the need by simply showing up.
We CAN fix this problem. Maybe we can’t fix all of the societal ills that cause children to become orphans, but we CAN provide homes for them. In South Florida there are about the same number of churches as there are foster kids. One foster family per church. One. There are families who have an empty bed… the solution will come one family at a time. I am blessed to call the Hickman family my friends… they decided to become foster parents after losing one of their own children. The child they fostered is Alex–a bubbly, fun little guy who can light up a room with his smile. I met baby Alex at SafePlace the morning he had been removed from his home. We shared Cheerios and spent some time together. He was holding onto me for dear life. I cried when I had to leave him there, wondering about his future.
I spent the next months praying for him daily. Then, out of the blue one day, 4KIDS President Doug Sauder called to say he had a surprise for me. I showed up for lunch at my children’s school and there was the greatest answer to prayer of my whole life. Alex found his way to a precious family that was part of my children’s school. My greater joy? Alex has now been adopted into the Hickman family, and I am blessed to be able to see him regularly and to be a part of his life. So if this all sounds like a bit much–it’s not. We are able to do what we do because we serve a God who gives us the strength and courage for any fight. If you don’t believe me, I understand. About 10 years ago I would have looked at the enormity of the foster crisis and just said, “It’s too big, there’ nothing I can do.”
Today, I am blessed and honored to be able serve the modern-day orphans of our community as an advocate for 4KIDS of South Florida. Will you join with me? Together we can fix this problem and save the children in our community.