We can, and must, do better for Kentucky's kids in foster care

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One of the current events we'll likely remember from 2017 is the devastating hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, and destroyed everything in their paths. Many people felt the impact of these storms, and our prayers continue to go out to the individuals and families impacted as they pick up pieces and rebuild their lives. But to be quite honest, we have children in our local communities who endure hurricane-like trauma every day - in their own homes. Sometimes we see it, and other times we're not aware of it for many years after extensive damage has been done.

We are experiencing a massive cultural shift right now related to marriage and family, and intense societal pressures are breaking families down. For a moment, children might experience some relief in the "eye of the storm," but soon the forceful winds of abuse and neglect come raging back, and their lives are overwhelmed by extreme suffering and chaos. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2015 that nearly 684,000 kids were being abused each year in the U.S., with Kentucky having the second highest rate of child abuse in the nation. We are capable of, and must do, better for our kids in the state.

I imagine these children as kites being grabbed by hurricane-like winds and tossed up and down with no strings attached to keep them grounded and secure. It is our job to send a lifeline to these kids and pull them to safety. We must do everything within our power to bring these children out of the horrendous storms of abuse and heartache and into homes of love and protection. As of Dec. 2017, there were 8,684 Kentucky kids in a state of impermanence, all waiting for their forever families to step up and care for them.

Through God's leadership, we will continue to help children not only experience healing and hope on this earth, but also an eternal home, one that no hurricane can touch. My vision is that all of us will come together to bring a revolution of love to hurting children and families across our state.

Please consider these ways you can make a difference:

  • First and foremost, if you believe a child is being abused or neglected immediately report it to the child protection hotline at 1-877-KYSAFE1.
  • Offer a child in need your loving home by becoming a foster parent.
  • Show compassion to a foster and/or adoptive family by taking them food, or inviting them to your home for a meal.
  • Become trained as a respite care provider so you can give relief to foster parents and help them avoid burnout.
  • Become a mentor to a teenager or young adult who needs direction, focus and purpose.
  • Get involved with your church or employer to sponsor a fundraiser or an in-kind donation drive for a nonprofit agency that cares for children and youth.

We must replace the storms of abuse with showers of love. Speaking of showers, James Taylor once wrote "we should shower the people we love with love, show them the way that we feel." These children are desperate to be loved.  Let's truly show them the way that we feel.

Dale Suttles is president of Sunrise Children's Services, a nonprofit Christian ministry that provides hope and healing to hurting children and families in Kentucky. For more info, visit www.sunrise.org.

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