Tampa Bay leads the state in the number of children in foster care. These children experience real pain and trauma and need the love, care, and support of a foster family to help them grow through that experience and thrive. Foster families provide for the needs of children in their care, seeking to support and help raise them.
Marcie Lipscomb and her husband, Fr. John Lipscomb, experienced kinship care of their granddaughter for four years while her father was in military service in Afghanistan. Fr. John was also adopted as an infant by wonderful parents who provided a very loving and supportive life for him.
According to www.florida127.org, “On average, 50% of foster families quit within the first year. When foster families are supported through a Care Community within the church, this 50% failure rate is transformed into a 90% success rate. Well-supported families foster longer and stronger.”
The experience opened Marcie’s heart to the challenges of fostering/adoptive/kinship families, and then she learned of the Care Community model from a nearby church.
“This concept provides practical ways of supporting them — meals, prayer, tutoring, childcare, transportation, laundry, yard work, and whatever would give them a personal connection of care,” she says.
Marcie wanted the community here at St. Timothy to help the families who support the vulnerable children in their care. This led to the initiation of Hands Lifting Hearts (HLH) four years ago, beginning with five families from the parish and surrounding areas.
“The ask went out to the St. Timothy parishioners for committed volunteers to take a meal once a month to their HLH Care Family,” Marcie says. “All five families were set up with a weekly meal from four different volunteers. The family team relieved the family of time planning, shopping, and cooking a meal one evening a week, which is very much appreciated by each family.”
The families have changed over the last four years of the ministry, but there are still five families currently served. The sizes of the families vary, and one family has
11 children (biological/fostered/adopted) — they are served two meals a week by Hands Lifting Hearts volunteers. The volunteer team lets Marcie know if their family needs special prayers and any other needs that HLH might help fulfill.
“The most important part of this ministry is the relationship of the families and their volunteers who will keep them connected through their service and prayer,” says Marcie.
The Care Community model is one of two parts of Hands Lifting Hearts. The other program is CarePortal, which connects technology to drive action for local children and families in crisis throughout the child welfare system.
“The CarePortal program works through our everyday email to give us individually the needs of a child or family that has been identified and vetted by a professional caseworker,” Marcie says. “The closest local churches and their individual emails are sent the request. If you choose to respond, you press that link and follow the prompts. Your response goes directly back to the caseworker for details on meeting the need. This could be an individual or group coming together for larger requests. These connections can change lives and help reverse the foster care crisis in Tampa Bay.”
The community organization that brought us the Care Community and CarePortal ministry models, Florida 1.27, is the support for training and direction. Their motto is, “Bridging the community to support children in need,” and, “A proven program for your church to share God’s love.” This is what drives the ministry’s mission.
Marcie wants the many St. Timothy HLH volunteers who give their time and resources to the children and families, to know how much their care is appreciated by those whom they serve.
To learn more, visit www.florida127.org, or contact Marcie Lipscomb at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss volunteering in one or both programs in the Hands Lifting Hearts Ministry.