Frankfort—With 8,527 children in the foster care system in Kentucky—entering at a rate of one child every two hours and 25 minutes—the church and faith-based community at large needs—to get involved by educating themselves and engaging on every –level, Dan Dumas, the commonwealth’s recently appointed czar for foster care and adoption, said.
“Children don’t flourish in institutions. They flourish in homes,” Dumas continued. “We need great foster and forever families. That is a fact. And the church, the faith-based community, is the fertile place that should own this problem.”
Dumas, an elder at Crossing Church of Louisville and former senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary, sees his new position as a calling, referring to himself as a “benevolent disrupter.” He sees his experience in the military, marketplace, ministry, and executive leadership as invaluable to this new appointment.
“I love to disrupt things, to change them and to transform them, but it’s done in benevolence,” Dumas said. “It’s not for my benefit, for my resumé or my accolades. In this case, it’s for Kentucky’s kids.
“I’m willing to put it all on the line for Kentucky’s kids and do whatever it takes to serve these kids, and do whatever it takes to get them in good foster homes or forever homes,” he said.
Gov. Matt Bevin, in Facebook Live comments, noted, “He’s a guy who had spoken on this subject, has written on this subject. He’s a guy who is living it,” Bevin said. “And the fact that the state of Kentucky is fortunate enough to be able to get him to do this job, we should be grateful.”
Dumas encourages the church to look to Isaiah 1:17 as a key text: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
“It starts with education. The church needs to educate itself,” he said. He applies this principle to not only foster/orphan care, but to any “societal maladies.”
He relishes the opportunity to speak with churches on the topic and share ways that they can be involved.
On that note, a key component for the church should be engagement, Dumas added. For those who can, fostering or fostering to adopt is an ultimate way to be involved, but other options exist for those who want to help but cannot foster, including respite care, investing, involving children in church activities, simply driving them to court mandated visitation, or mentoring younger couples that are starting off on the orphan care journey.
He encouraged churches to “own it. Be proud (you) have a leader in state government who champions children.”
Dumas, a father to two adopted sons, derives his passion for reforming the adoption/foster care system from his own experience and from scripture.
“I’m a champion of it because I’ve done it. I’m speaking into the system as one who has experienced it and one who cares deeply about it. I think the scriptures are loud and bold and clear that we are to care for orphans. I put feet to the scriptures and actually did it and experienced it,” he shared. “That combination equals passion.”
Bevin added, “How do I think he’s going to be able to fix this? By coming in with his knowledge and his experience, his leadership expertise.”
He continued, “He will work with me to make this the ‘gold standard’ for America.”
Dumas is assuming a “blitzkrieg” model for reforming the system, he said, meaning that he is focusing on multiple things that must be changed at once. He, along with the Department of Child Protective Services, the cabinet, Gov. Bevin, and others are working to “T-bone” the system.
Some of the ways he’s working on are essentially “cutting red tape, streamlining the home study process, speeding up terminating parental rights, working with courts so they are aware of issues that slow things down in court systems, recruiting great families, streamlining foster care training, and changing culture in Kentucky to what is in the best interest for the child.”
Calling reform a “bipartisan issue,” he said, “We know we’re broken. That’s at least a good place. We know we’re unhealthy, we know we’re broke, and we know we have to fix it. So, we’re going down that path.”
“Dan Dumas has proven his ability to get things done, and what we all agree on is that something needs to get done in Frankfurt for the sake of Kentucky’s hurting kids,” Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, added. “I invite every Kentucky Baptist to join me in making a commitment to pray for Dan and all of our elected officials who will lead in this effort.”
While standing by the idea that failure is not an option, Dumas added, “I’m praying for these kids. I’m praying for great families to step up. It’s a big part of my strategy.” (WR)