KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When the economy fell into a deep recession in 2008, it turns out it wasn't just the money that went away; many families did, too.
Experts at the Jackson County Children's Division say the number of children abandoned by their families shot through the roof.
Today, 3,000 children in the five-county metro region live in the foster-care system.
The Global Orphan Project, located in Parkville, Mo., said most them live in the east side zip code 64130.
The international orphan-care ministry has helped more than 20,000 children in more than 20 countries find education and homes since 2003.
After it learned about the fast-growing parentless population in Kansas City, it launched "adoptKC".
Today, the Global Orphan Project is in the process of enlisting KC-area churches so that the congregations can become families for children in their communities who don't have one.
Each participating church will organize and mobilize its congregation to care for these children.
The Global Orphan Project connects each church with state services and helps fund the remodeling of church-owned homes.
Tate Williams, who is in charge of adoptKC, said, "It was the churches in Uganda, it was the churches in Haiti that were teaching us about what it looks like for the local church in that local community to care for the kids that local community."
The World Harvest Church, off of the rough streets of 34th and Woodland, is one of the first churches to commit to the effort.
Pastor Melvin Haliburton said he sees the abandoned homes that riddle his church's neighborhood as an opportunity to give an abandoned child a fulfilled life.
"When you're not coming into a house with your brother or sister, you feel like you are on an island by yourself," he said. "When you aren't with your brother or sister, you brace yourself for the worst."
Haliburton knows because he once was bounced around in foster care.
The state is often forced to pull a child out of his or her community because there are not enough families in the same neighborhood who want to care for a child.
The Global Orphan Project said that is why one in 10 children never leave government care until they turn 18 and "age out."
Construction crews have already begun to rebuild some east side homes to make room and resources available for potential foster and adoptive families from the neighborhood churches.
Haliburton said construction is just the first phase.
"Through all of their behaviors, at the end of the problem, they (foster children) need love," Haliburton said.
In the past two years, the number of children entering the foster-care system grew by 20 percent in Jackson County.
The number of children entering the foster-care system is growing on the Kansas side, too.
Olathe's foster-care population grew at a faster rate during the last two years than any other area of the metro.
If you'd like to find out more about adoptKC and how to help, log on to adoptKC.org.
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