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Global Orphan Project

From the series Global Orphan Project: Helping Kids in Need

Can you imagine… you…actually saving a child’s life? And you don’t need to go anywhere, or complete any special training. In this program, Chip interviews Joe Knittig from the Global Orphan Project. Joe describes the widespread poverty tearing families apart and shares a very simple way believers can meet these needs in their own backyard.

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Message Transcript

CHIP: You know, every now and then I’ll be praying or I’ll meet someone and you know how your mind processes and thoughts come to you and you’re praying one day and the same thought keeps resonating. And I had a friend, he introduced me to a fella named Joe Knittig. And Joe has a very interesting experience and life and he developed a thing called Care Portal. And I’m going to tell you more about it but I want you to know that “Everyone in the Living on the Edge family has to hear this story.” And every one of us has an opportunity to literally change the course of a child’s life. We all know that God has told us to love Him with all of our heart, our soul, our mind, and strength; to love our neighbor as ourselves, right? That’s what it is to be what I call a Romans 12 Christian. And the fact of the matter is is that of all the people Jesus would say are the most vulnerable, and He says, “Suffer not those little children to come to Me,” I don’t know about you, but when I have been able to help the life of a child, man, I know that God is pleased. Something deep happens in my soul and it really boils down to: that’s how we love our neighbor as ourselves. So, Joe, I just want you first to welcome you to the program.

JOE: Thank you, it’s an honor.

CHIP: Well, it’s good to have you, and maybe before we talk about Care Portal, could you just pause and give us a bit of background about your life so people get a mental picture of, like, who is this guy that Chip is talking to and where is he coming from?”

JOE: Well, I’m a kid that grew up and was very fortunate that I didn’t end up in foster care, but grew up with no identity, grew up with a chip on my shoulder, grew up with shame, and wanting a way out. And the Lord brought me out. And I became a trial lawyer in the process of that, the Lord called my wife and I to be givers and investors in children. In the process, we met an amazing man and his wife who started a ministry called The Global Orphan Project. Which invested in churches for churches to care for children and families in crisis with the ministry being anonymous to the children and families in crisis. And once I saw that in action, I was sold and done and I gave my life to it. And so, now, that’s what I get to do: serve the bride of Christ as she serves children and families in crisis with the Church being the hero.

CHIP: Well, Joe, This sounds honestly, a little too good to be true. CarePortal allows us to actually find out needs of children in our community and we can help them. And it sounds so simple, it sounds like an ordinary, regular person without much training could literally change the course of a child’s life. And so, Joe, tell us the story, give us a picture of how it got birthed, how it has grown, what it actually does, And then I’ll follow up with sort of the kind of questions that I think everyone listening, on the edge of their chair, are going to say, “Oh, Chip, ask him about this,” or, “ask him about that.”

JOE: So, we really do very, very little. The good news is that the Church is rising up in this hour and doing quite a bit, notwithstanding what your listeners may hear and the discouragement they may receive. The best way for me to understand this and to paint a picture is to talk about child welfare in America for just a few minutes. Many of us that are probably listening to this have always thought of the orphan crisis as being a third world thing. And nothing could be further from the truth. The scourge of fatherlessness is ravaging communities all over the world. And so, we have a major crisis of fatherlessness and family breakdown in the richest country the world has ever known. And what that means is we have about four million children every year in the United States at the front door of the foster care system. More than four hundred thousand that are in the foster care system, and more than one hundred thousand that are immediately adoptable. And if you think about the enormity of that problem, you’ve got to break it down, because child welfare operates locally, county by county. So, as bad as that bad news is, here’s the amazing thing. God has gone before us. If you go to any county in America, you’re going to find an unbelievable treasure trove of care stakeholders. So, you’ll go into a country and you’re going to find child protective services, you’re going to find schoolteachers, social workers who interface with families breaking down in real time. And when you go around them in a county, you’re going to find local churches that cross boundaries of race and class and culture with a common playbook of, hey, let’s live this gospel in action. It is in our playbook to be those who support families in crisis and care for kids who have lost their families. So, you’re going to see all of them and you’re going to see business owners and others in the community who may or may not be believers, but have a heart for children. So, you have all of this right there. Here’s the problem. They are disconnected. We do connection to make sure that I can get a dozen eggs dropped at my front door so I don’t even have to move through an app. We have connection that I could make sure I get a private vehicle to pick me up and take me to the airport on an app. We have connection for me to find a place for me to stay anywhere in the nation, anywhere in the world through an app – all these sharing platforms. We don’t have a connecting platform for our most vulnerable children and families. So, when you boil it all down and you think, How do I tackle such a God-sized problem? You dream big and you execute small. So, CarePortal is a share caring platform that operates locally. It goes to the social workers who see the needs and we say to them, “Hey, if you see a need of a family in crisis,” it could be a grandma caring for her grandkids that if she doesn’t get help with her rent, they have to go into the foster care system. It could be a foster family, an adoptive family that are struggling and they need a little help. You enter that into CarePortal and then we are going to recruit churches and we are going to ask churches a simple question: if there is a hurting child in your zip code, are you willing to see the need? You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want. We’re just going to create a James moment here. So we do that on a local basis, we started it in April of 2015 in Austin, Texas in one county. We just put this platform together, we basically duct taped this thing together, made it look pretty. And then the Church moved. And today, from one county, two thousand, four hundred and forty-three churches in twenty-two states have served eighty-two thousand nine hundred and twenty-two children and that is – increases by about a hundred a day. And we are anonymous to it all. It’s all the Church being the hero to children and families in crisis, and making relational connections around real-time needs. It’s Uber for child welfare.

CHIP: That is actually amazing, Joe. Now, let me, just for our listeners right now, let me tell you what I think I heard so I am really clear on this. You have this massive need that most of us are unaware of all across America. Way bigger than most of us even think. We don’t see it. And yet, inside every community, you have people who want to help. And it could be a business person or a church or a social worker, a schoolteacher – they see this need, they see this kid and they go, “Oh my! We’ve got to do something.” But no one puts this thing together that could say, “Hey, all of us who care about children, here’s one place where we can surface the needs.” And then you circled and then you said, “Let’s make the local church sort of the core responder.  Now, is that exactly what you’ve done?

JOE: You nailed it. And we call them “care connections”. For community to be community around the needs of kids and families in crisis. Exactly right, with the local church always at the relational point of care. Because we are really not just trying to facilitate transactional support. We’re trying to catalyze relational connections at an acute moment in time for the Church to be the Church and then we stay anonymous, and it’s remarkable, Chip, what can happen when egos and logos get put down.

CHIP: Well, Joe, I believe you are exactly right. When egos and logos get put aside and when people have a mission, I mean, the kind of mission where you want to help a child and someone, you in this case, has set up a system in a way that is simple, that’s clear, that we could all get involved in, we can make a difference and we can do it right now – that’s why I wanted you to come on the program and tell the CarePortal story. there’s got to be some pastors out there and some parents and teachers and electricians and carpenters and stay-at-home moms and people who are driving in a van right now or their SUV thinking, Hey, would you guys shut up now and tell me specifically how can I get involved? I get it. I care about kids. I want to help. Will you just tell me how can I help? So, Joe, tell me, thirty seconds: This is how I can get involved in CarePortal and see very visible needs, we would learn the church in the area and how it works, and you  could actually make the difference in a child’s life today

JOE: Go to careportal.org and on the homepage we have made it very simple. You’ll pick what category you fit in, there’s a place for you to enter your name, and then we are off to the races. So, it’s a super intuitive platform. Just go to careportal.org and get started.

CHIP: We will put that up on our website as well. And I just don’t want to be harsh and don’t want people to understand or in any way misconstrue what you’re doing. The foster care system is vital. There are kids that are abused. I mean, as a pastor for over thirty years I have been involved in lots of situations, unfortunately, where kids are at a place where they have to be taken out of the home for their physical or emotional safety. But what the reality is and all the statistics tell us is that there are a lot of kids that get put in the foster care system that don’t need to be there if they had a bed or if their family could take care of a small need here or a small need there. The kids could stay in an intact family.

And what we know is when children stay with their parents, the probability of their life success skyrockets. tell us a little bit, Joe, about what happens statistically to children that end up in the foster care system and why we need to help them before they get into the system? Because what – what you really keep saying is ya know it’s like being in a stream and it’s polluted down here And really, everything you’re doing is saying, “Hey, why don’t we go upstream? And if we can stop the pollution, the problems, the struggles up there then you don’t have them downstream. And that’s really what CarePortal does. But some of the things that you and I have talked about earlier about what happens when a child ends up in the foster care system, it’s hard to hear but our listeners need to hear it. Would you share that with us?

JOE: So, once they go into the system, the outcomes are statistically sad. We know there are bad outcomes because there’s so much trauma involved in all of that. Trauma upon trauma. So, once kids go into foster care, about seventy-five percent – if you went right now into the prisons in the United States and you said, “In you were in foster care at all, raise your hand,” seventy-five percent would raise their hand. And if you went to girls and women who have been rescued from sex trafficking raids, and you had them all in a room, and you said, “How many of you were in the foster system?” Sixty percent would raise their hand. And if you went to the homeless population and you said, “How many of you were in foster care?” More than fifty percent would raise their hand. And these people would be disproportionately Black and brown. That’s what you would see. Foster care is ground zero for systemic change in our nation. That’s not me saying it. That’s just stone cold stats. And what I would also say is, you know, we need to do more prevention, wrapping around mom, dad, grandma before kids get dropped in the river. And we also need more foster and adopt – pulling Moses out of that river. And CarePortal, statistically, sixty percent of the needs that are met are prevention and forty percent are foster care adoption and reunifying biological families. So, we need both/and. And that’s how we have built this platform.

CHIP: Well, Joe, those statistics are alarming, staggering, disturbing. the reason I wanted you to come on the program is those were the kind of things that I thought to myself, You know, people need to hear that. And then when you begin to hear how we can make a difference, in fact, there was a story of a family and umm Social Services came, and they didn’t have enough beds for their kids. And, you know, there’s laws and if there’s not a bed for every child, they were going to take these children away from their parents and put them in the foster care system. Now, as well intended as that is, those statistics play out. And instead, someone said, “You know, my kids are grown.” Actually got bunk beds, disassembled them, put it in the back of the truck, brought one of their kids with them, went over and gave them the bunk beds, and that family stayed intact. And that - so much of what CarePortal does is stuff like that. And quite honestly, as I was getting to know you and vetting you and making sure just between you and me, is this really legit? Because it was so amazing and the numbers of children you are helping and how it has grown. It’s the hand of God.

JOE: Beautifully stated. that is what CarePortal does. It facilitates relational, micro partnerships with the Church at the relational point of care, for real time needs of real kids and families. And your story is correct. The number one need entered into CarePortal by child welfare professionals are beds. Because in the child welfare system, even when you think about the big issues of our day, the issues of racial reconciliation, which are huge issues of the day. When you go to low income communities, often Black and brown neighborhoods, very – if I went up and down the street of the church that I go to, which happens to be in a low income neighborhood, and I just did a survey of how many children have their own bed, it would not be a hundred percent, I assure you. And it would not be abnormal, it wouldn’t be – there wouldn’t be anything wrong with what is happening in those families. They are healthy families that are fighting and scratching and clawing to survive. But the rules get written often by those who see it differently. And they have decided this is kind of Huxtables thing. Every child must have a bed, otherwise it’s neglect or abuse. And so, when a child welfare worker is in there, he or she is not some mean ogre, you know, that is doing that. They are just, they’ve got to follow the rules. And they are like, “Hey, look,” and it breaks their heart, where they are like, “I don’t want to take grandma’s grandkids. She’s an amazing grandma. Can somebody help her with beds?” And then better yet, get into a relationship with grandma and go to the church and actually say, “Hey, guys, can you walk this walk?” Could this not be the evangelism portal? Could this be the CarePortal…and let’s let God be God because He does amazing things when there is sincerity in the connection. So, beds are entered in more than any other need. And there are bills, beds. And so, you really nailed it and there are so many. Not everybody can say, Chip, if I went to a church with two hundred members and said, “Who will be a foster parent?” You might get two or three. But if I went into that church and said, “Who is willing to help meet the needs of real children and families, real time, including beds and mentorship and bills?” Maybe fifty raise their hand. I’ll be on that team. And then go back a year later and ask those fifty who have now had cross-cultural relationships and say, and they know more now. And we know this, because we have data. We know this not because we are just whimsically saying, “Yay.”  We have a university studying it. Eighty-five percent of those who respond to CarePortal needs say that they are now going to be more active. And fifty-one percent report they made a meaningful ongoing connection. If I go back a year later and said, “Who is willing to be a foster to adopt parent?” I’m going to have more response and I’m going to have better quality responses because the veneer of emotion has been removed and people now have a genuine heart and a better understanding. So, beds, bills, relationships can reverse the foster crisis in America by the power of Jesus through the Church. What kind of sermon would that be seven years from now, front page news – New York Times. CNN, FOX News. “I don’t know what to make of this Jesus character, but it turns out the Church in America has united in concerted action and has reversed the foster care crisis in this country and of all things, racial reconciliation is breaking out. Of all things, unification of the Church is breaking out.” This is about far more than children. In fact, I’ll go this far. I don’t think the Church is being sent to the children. I believe the children are being sent to the Church to purify and unify the Church. And the Church is rising up and saying, “Yes.” It’s beautiful.

CHIP: Wow, Joe, it’s amazing how God works and it’s amazing how He is working. when Jesus says, “Suffer not the little children to come to Me,” I think basically we have a command to make a difference. Can I encourage you, don’t just listen and think, Oh wow, that’s interesting? Would you, today, I mean, today, go to CarePortal.org, put in your zip code, and realize you can be a difference-maker today. Joe, thanks so much for being with us and may your tribe increase.

Joe: Thank you.