Florida 1.27 Launches CarePortal in Hillsborough County
We are living in what feels like unprecedented times. Times that are bringing about emotions, changes and hardships we did not see coming. Our world is aching from COVID-19 and the unrest it has brought in its wake. Here at Florida 1.27, we are holding steadfast to God’s promises, His sweet truths and His unrelenting presence. In this world of unknowns, we are clinging to the One we do know – the Creator, Healer and Provider. We must be strong in Him, but proactive in the chaos.
The reality is that there is a hidden storm in the child welfare system because of COVID-19; child abuse calls are down as well as children entering the system. Schools, often the lead source for mandatory reporters, have been closed, hospitals are left for the severely sick, and doctor visits are not as regular – these normal connection points are not happening, leaving room for neglect and abuse to go unnoticed. With distress levels up and watchers down, we are likely to see an influx of children entering the system as the virus begins to clear up. Families are breaking down with very limited resources to get them through this season – with many gaps financially, spiritually, mentally, socially, and physically. Now is the time to prepare, now is the time to get the church moving, now is the time to start meeting tangible needs by helping with principled things
With the storm of the welfare system brewing, we are working to launch CarePortal in Tampa. CarePortal connects churches and the individuals that attend those churches with opportunities to step in and serve. It enables us to meet physical needs and a point of step-in for relationship building. A caring network that would be beneficial in any season, is especially vital for this one.
CarePortal has the ability to lessen the gap between church and state. It gives churches and individuals the authentic ability to be the hands and feet of Jesus – to provide for families in desperate need of resources. CarePortal is a tool that is provided via an online network, a tool that has been designed by child welfare professionals, for child welfare. The case manager, or anyone in a social work position – is made aware of a need for a family, the case manager, or person with access to the tool will post the vetted and verified need to the network. That need is sent to every church on the network, whichever church responds first will be able to meet the families need, it may be physical and transactional.
This partnership between church and state is essential, as child welfare systems are often overwhelmed and under-resourced. With CarePortal, a need is safely fulfilled by individuals within a church that help the family-in-crisis by providing the needed resource. This leads to a possibility of building real relationships and open great doors of awareness, service and community with that family in ways that may have not been previously available to them. Heather Cazzola, Director of Diversion and Prevention at Eckerd Connects explains: “We work hard to guide our families to therapeutic resources, counseling, and other types of services. We are excited about partnering with CarePortal, as it will open new doors to opportunities to receive informal support and develop healthy relationships to help create positive lifelong changes for children and families in our community”.
The challenge exists when we do not know of a need. The goal is to raise the awareness of the church to be aware of the crisis in the community. “Awareness is key and Florida 1.27 is on the front lines doing this important work. They are the carriers of CarePortal, which is one of the tools in the tool box to raise awareness for the church,” says Curtis Artis, Multi-State Director for The Global Orphan Project. Case workers will be trained on how to efficiently and effectively navigate the network and churches will understand how to respond. The heart is to bring aid to a desperate system, while creating caring connections and gentle help for families with vulnerable children. “When people are hurting in our community, it is our great privilege as the church to help. It is an open opportunity to use technology as a means of connection. We are meeting real-time needs,” claims Brian Strawser, co-founder of Florida 1.27.
Preventative care – helping to keep families intact and avoid placements in foster care, Foster care – providing support to children through a temporary family, and Reunification care – helping a family as their children return to them after a foster care placement are some of the focused areas that the CarePortal network can connect churches to serve families in partnership with the child welfare system. “This is the key to the engagement of the church being the tip of the spear. The physical needs are not only met because the church is involved, but friendships and discipleship can happen. Individuals meet to help, pray, and do life with the family. Instead of the family operating in isolation, families can become part of a community of believers to stand with them, fight alongside them, and be a presence while meeting physical, spiritual, emotional and relational needs,” Artis tells. There is something special about community, about fighting against quiet struggles with togetherness, shedding beautiful light on emptiness, holding the hand of a stranger and loving their family because God called us to that. He commands us to love His people like He loves them. Humans are created to be loved by people, not by institutions. This program creates such unification between church and people, people and agency, families and children and even churches with other churches – it offers real solutions to a sizable problem. Called “robust” by state agencies and partners alike, CarePortal can help change the game.
“What we have adopted, as the heart of CarePortal, is biblically based in terms of the church being the answer for the community. We want the church to be God’s ambassadors in the neighborhoods. We totally believe in a holistic approach in involving the entire community. There is room for everyone to do something,” Artis explains. It makes our big hurting world a little bit smaller, a little bit kinder, and a whole lot better. In the midst of chaos, we are fighting for solutions. CarePortal is in 21 states and more than 200 counties in America. We have launched in US territories, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. It is amazing to see the movement of God across the nation. CarePortal is a tool for organizations who are engaged, raising up and doing great work. It comes in as a catalyst to help the efficiency to increase the impact of work that is already being done in our communities. We are excited that Hillsborough County has joined CarePortal with Florida 1.27 and are thrilled to watch God move.
- This article was written by Shelbi Hales. Read more about her and her work at her blog: Love Into Freedom