Tai Thergood was a single parent working 80 hours a week to provide for his three children when they were removed from his custody and placed into foster care.  Tai is the first to admit he had a lot to learn about being a father—he grew up without one—but when the caseworker showed up to investigate reports of neglect, Tai’s impression was she was not interested in helping him but was removing the kids as a knee-jerk reaction. It was the worst day of his life. It took Ty ten years to regain custody of his children, during which he joined a fathers’ support group, got a mentor, and started taking better care of himself, too. Ty is now a parent consultant to the Department of Children and Families in his home state of Connecticut. He works to help caseworkers do a better job of working with parents to promote children’s safety and family well-being.
When children experience abuse or neglect, that trauma harms their emotional, physical, and mental health. Sometimes removing a child from his or her family is a heart-breaking necessity to keep them safe. At the same time, when a child is placed into foster care, the dislocation from his or her home, biological family, and often neighborhood and school add another layer of loss and trauma to their life. More and more, child welfare providers are working to support biological families in keeping their children safe rather than removing children prematurely. Often the challenge is finding the resources to support these families and helping families access them.
This is where Project 1.27’s new program, FamiliesCare, comes in. FamiliesCare empowers families at risk of child removal to stay safe, stay together, and thrive by training a group from a church to encourage and support a family. Lack of a support network is a key risk factor for families struggling to care for their children. In FamiliesCare, a group of 5-8 volunteers from a local church brings the family a meal once a week, a bag of groceries once a month, helps them access helpful resources in the community and plans a low-key get-together once a month. At the heart of it, FamiliesCare is about relationships. It’s an opportunity for the church to live out their faith by building relationships with a family referred by the Department of Human Services who is asking for help and participating in the program voluntarily. As a pastor I know likes to say, “Hope shows up when people who care show up.”
Recognizing the importance of children growing up with their biological family, Governor Jared Polis recently declared June 2023 to be Family Reunification Month in Colorado. He stated that “community partners…play a vital role in helping to reunify, strengthen and support families” and that “families are better when they are together.” Project 1.27 is proud to be one of those community partners. We believe the relationships built in FamiliesCare will be transformative for the families we serve and the volunteers.
For more info, visit project127.org/familiescare
By Fred Elliot-Hart, FamiliesCare Director