Are you going to move to China?

Prior to coming to China, we often heard two things: “You guys are going to go to China and not come back.” AND “You are going to bring another little one home.”

We usually simply smiled, knowing with fair certainty that neither was going to happen. Could we move to China? – absolutely, but not right now. The second – well, you can’t just fly to another country and bring home a child!

China will always be an important part of our family tapestry. Always. Maybe one day we will stay longer than a couple months, but for now we will fly home to Oklahoma. Aside from our dear family, friends and community – we will return for Chris’ job. I can work anywhere. Chris – he needs to be planted in Oklahoma.

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Child welfare – family preservation, adoption, foster care – it is not a ‘here or there’ thing for us. I use my voice online to advocate for children across the globe. In day to day life of our family, Chris is on the front lines in Oklahoma advocating for the children in our state.

Together we choose to be a voice for kids. Kids in our community. Kids on the other side of the globe. Kids.

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Exciting things are happening in Oklahoma in the foster care realm and I’m getting to watch Chris flourish in the midst of it all. For three years now, he has been of a team (111Project & 111Tulsa), whose primary objective is to be part of the solution to the foster care crisis in our state.

Day in and day out his team is challenging others to join in:

  • Foster care prevention through coming alongside birth families
  • Foster family recruitment for kids in need of a safe, loving family
  • Foster family retention through support and respite care

In January 2016, the team introduced CarePortal to Oklahoma. CarePortal is an online engagement tool between the State (Child Welfare workers) and local churches. Child Welfare workers uncover the needs of kids/families and then submit a request for help online. Churches are made aware of the needs in the community (already vetted by state workers) and given the opportunity to meet the needs.

CarePortal has been in Oklahoma for 1.5 years.

285 churches/small groups have signed up across the state.

1,088 families served

2,363 children impacted

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I could write a book filled with stories of how Care Portal has impacted families and children in our state. Beds given. Bus passes provided, so parents can visit kids. School uniforms. Washers. Dryers. Food. Basic needs met, but also not so basic needs met. Families kept together. Kids safe and fed. Case workers feeling supported and heard.

Beyond the essentials, Child Welfare workers are able to advocate for other needs…needs that help kids not just survive, but begin to thrive. Needs that would not be met otherwise.

Honestly, much of what Care Portal provides are things done by the local government in other states. However, Oklahoma continues to face harsh budget cuts. These cuts are felt the deepest by the most vulnerable – the children in our state. Care Portal is picking up where the state cannot.

Chris is in a job where he is thriving and able to use all his gifts and talents in the most perfect ways. He spends a significant amount of time driving across the state. He is constantly on the phone with government leaders, case workers, church leaders, and foster parents. We miss him when he is gone, but it sure is exciting to watch big things happening in our state. It is inspiring and beautiful to watch so many people come together to make a difference in the lives of children that too often fall through the cracks. Churches spanning denominations and joining together to collectively be a part of something truly significant – impacting a child. A family. A community.

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(wife brag – Chris is featured in the most recent issue of Tulsa People)

When our time in China comes to an end, we will board a plane and return home. There is much work left to do in our state and I know a good man committed to see the work done for as long as he is able.

When the major foster care challenges in our state are solved, Chris will have worked himself out of a job. We will celebrate in that moment and then I guess he’ll start job hunting. Maybe the next job will land us in China.

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Below are several posts with more specific information regarding the work Chris and his team are doing. There are also some practical ideas of ways to be involved in child welfare beyond being a foster or adoptive parent.

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  • Heather - I have loved reading about your time in China and laugh because we did something very similar with our family this year. Last summer we up and moved to DC for a year so my husband could advocate for teachers and education around the country. It’s wonderful watching him in his element, going on family adventures, embracing the unknown and experiencing a new lifestyle different than our own. We even home schooled for the first time ever. Out time is about to come to an end and the number one question I get from friends and family is “are you going to stay in DC?!” We too feel called to return home and continue the work we started there but will always have a place in our hearts for DC. Enjoy the rest of your adventures in China!

  • Tiffany - WOW!!! The CarePortal looks awesome. And Congrats to Chris on all his hardwork, heartwarming to read.

  • Emily - This is amazing!!!!! As a foster/adoptive momma and foster care advocate who strongly believes the church was always the answer to the orphan crisis I’m obsessed with this resource and see the great need we have for it in My state, Michigan where our system is so terribly corrupt and in need of the church to wake up and do their part. Is this program something that has been implemented in other states or solely in OK? I would love more information. Thank your husband for his work, one child would be worth it all, but it seems as though the impact is much greater even!????

  • Stephanie R - Have you read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See? I recently read it and loved it. Perhaps an interesting perspective on adoptions from China. It was surprising how much I loved the book. Enjoy your trip!

  • Rebecca - I am a foster mama and I love hearing about this effort in your state. Also these China posts are so beautifully photographed and narrated. Thanks for sharing so much of what you are seeing and experiencing.

  • Katie - As a foster family, it is so encouraging to see such amazing support for bio families and foster families. I would love to know more about how we can get involved with something similar in California. Doing foster care has taught us so much, and stretched us in ways we didn’t think possible. God’s hand is evident in the brokenness.

  • Emily Bartnikowski - I am so moved by the work your family does – and so grateful that you are sharing it with us. American is lucky to have you among its citizens <3

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