Like so many others, my earliest memories of music include the lyrics, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His site. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
From Sunday School and Vacation Bible School lessons, I knew that song to be true. I learned Jesus had said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). I also learned He had said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Over time I learned that our Lord’s love and concern for children will be shared by all genuine disciples.
A recent article in the Louisville Courier-Journal raised the above thoughts and memories when it reported on the woeful state of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS). The opening line announced, “State social service officials in northern Kentucky lost track of nearly 100 cases of alleged child abuse or neglect – some not assigned to workers for investigation and others languishing for months after social workers responsible for them resigned.” It continued with a host of quotes from present and past employees revealing enormous caseloads, epidemic employee turnover, and workers’ debilitating stress levels. As for the Cabinet’s handling of the myriad of problems, one person observed, “The Titanic is sinking and the cabinet is rearranging the deck chairs.”
The systemic brokenness of the state system is a matter of life and death for Kentucky’s children. A report published by the Division for Protection and Permanency of CHFS reveals that in 2013, 22 abused and neglected children died. Of those 22, the state had received credible reports of abuse and neglect on 17 of the victims. That tells me that our system failed 17 kids to the point that they are now dead. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the abusers are ultimately responsible. But I also know that, since the abuse had already been reported, the deaths of these children could have been prevented.
Why do I highlight such sad and disturbing news? Because, as Kentucky Baptists, we are in a position to help.
Joshua Hutchens, pastor of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Buffalo, Ky., puts it like this: “What does the foster care system need? An invasion! The only way to fix it is to invade with Spirit-empowered, church-supported, praying, in-home missionaries!” Like a growing number of Kentucky Baptist ministry couples and lay couples, Joshua and his wife, Stacy, practice what they preach. They have invaded the system and welcomed victimized children into their family where these precious little ones will not only learn that Jesus loves them, they will also have a mommy and daddy who love them.
For the past year, Michelle and I have been working with Sunrise Children’s Services to challenge Kentucky Baptists to “Be the One.” We have had many opportunities to celebrate families accepting the challenge by being trained as foster parents and welcoming children into their homes. We decided to do what we were asking others to do by being trained ourselves and welcoming a foster son into our home in February.
While we are thanking God for those who have answered the call, I know that kids are still dying in Kentucky. They are still dying because wicked people, typically in their own families, victimize them. And they are still dying because an overburdened and broken state system is failing them.
Kentucky Baptists, let’s help relieve the burden. Let’s step in and step up. We can do that by advocating for the kids. We can do that becoming foster parents and/or adoptive parents. And we can do that by supporting the work of Sunrise Children’s Services through our Cooperative Program giving and direct donations.
Why should we? Jesus loves the children, all the children of the world … and all the children of Kentucky.