(PNS) No one knows exactly how many children in the tri-county area around Detroit (Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties) are lacking a bed of their own, but it is likely the number is in the thousands, according to the nonprofit Building Beds 4 Kids.
“One of the most basic needs of children in the child welfare system — ages 2 to 18 — is for a warm, comfortable bed and a good night’s sleep,” said the Rev. Dr. Kathryn “Kate” Thoresen, coordinator of the statewide Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care and parish associate for foster and/or adoptive families’ partnerships at First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Michigan.
“We see that providing beds for every child who needs one is an effective way to prevent kids from going into foster care in the first place,” Thoresen said. “We are also discovering that there are many grandparents who are raising grandkids who suddenly need beds as well.”
Thoresen and her husband, Tom, who have three adult children and two grandchildren, have also served as respite foster parents. It is through this experience they have both developed a personal understanding of the needs of children in the child welfare system, especially those in foster care. Thoresen works to connect congregations and social service agencies statewide to meet the needs of foster children, families and youth aging out of the foster care system in Michigan.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. The AAP also found that getting adequate sleep on a regular basis can lead to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and mental and physical health.
A bed-building event held Monday brought together 23 volunteers representing nine congregations in the Presbytery of Detroit, which has accepted the Matthew 25 invitation extended by the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Those churches included First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, First Presbyterian Church of Troy, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church of South Lyon, Northbrook Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church of Farmington and First Presbyterian Church of Northville. This all-volunteer workforce assembled 68 beds, which will be distributed by churches and social service agencies at no cost to families with children who need a bed.
The wooden bed frames are made and assembled by volunteers. Local universities donate used twin-size mattresses when refurnishing dorm rooms, and congregations hold periodic drives for zippered mattress protectors and colorful sheet sets and comforters that appeal to children and youth.
Nearly one-fourth of the churches in the Presbytery of Detroit have some kind of outreach effort to support children in the foster care system. One church, First Presbyterian of Plymouth, recently used a Faith in Action grant to purchase car parts and have a day of car repair for foster families or young adults in the foster care system.
Based on fiscal year 2017 foster care statistics in the Child Welfare Information Gateway report, released in March by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau, nearly 443,000 children were in the foster care system throughout the U.S. as of Sept. 30, 2017, an increase of 5,530 children over the same time period during the previous year.
The nonprofit Building Beds 4 Kids, founded by a Detroit couple with five children and 14 grandchildren who want to do their best to get beds to kids who don’t have them, is committed to the principle that it’s not about them personally or the organization or even the beds. “It’s about the kids,” they said. “We’re just trying to help them.”
by Tammy Warren, Presbyterian News Service