Faith-based foster care program changes name, mission

Updated: Apr. 3, 2019 at 1:52 PM CDT
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A new name and a new initiative is in place for an East Texas organization that has been helping children across East Texas for years.

“We've been waiting a long time to be able to share this with people,” said East Texas Orphan Care Network’s Justin Hayes.

Hayes said their program received a call to action to become more focused on a more specific need in the community.

“Orphan care is a very broad thing,” said Hayes. “We would love the East Texas community to know that there is a group of people that loves kids.”

Hayes and his ETOCN partner Christi Sowell made the announcement of their new mission Tuesday at the Smith County network meeting in Tyler.

Together the two revealed ETOCN would soon become The Fostering Collective. The faith-based organization seeks to engage churches in efforts to help fill a foster care void across East Texas.

“When you're having a struggle and you know you're not alone, sometimes that just gives you the fuel to be able to keep on going,” said Sowell as she addressed a room of foster care leaders and volunteers. “To me it's a day of celebration.”

Sowell and Hayes are no stranger to fostering and adopting.

“It's coming up on six years,” Sowell said. “We adopted a sibling group out of foster care.”

Hayes is also a father to a child he adopted from fostering.

“Some people aren’t quite as supportive, family may not be quite as supportive,” said Sowell. “One thing that we had was our faith family just really wrapped around us and loved us well.”

"The Fostering Collective” seeks to engage churches in efforts to help fill foster care void across East Texas.

The two foster leaders explained “The Fostering Collective” is far more than a name change on paper.

“Whether that's fostering or adopting or helping someway through their agency or their organization, but all these people together make up a collective of people,” said Hayes.

“It makes me happy to just go before people and share our story and the challenges that we face so that people see how they can serve,” Sowell said.

Hayes explain The Fostering Collective is looking to serve as a middle-man for parents and volunteers in what can often feel like an overwhelming and confusing system.

“A big detraction from people wanting to get involved is that it is a very complex system,” said Hayes. “A lot of times unfortunately people just never do anything, so we can help be your guide.”

But the help goes beyond parents who are willing to adopt and volunteers who are willing to give their time.

“We also need organizations that are willing to focus in and really try to make a deep impact rather than a shallow impact in several different ways,” said Hayes. “Whether it’s wrapping around a family that is fostering or adopting or whether it’s helping find items for these families or just helping in your church.”

“It’s biblical just in the sense that God has adopted us and our sins and our flaws and our hurts,” said Sowell. “A lot of times foster care and adoption is very similar."

The organization maintains it’s putting faith first to lead their mission the direction they want to go.

“We want to offer hope for the children in foster care,” said Hayes. “We want to help support these families. We want to help encourage these families.”

To learn more about how you can get involved with The Fostering Collective, click here.

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