Pastor Justin Oberndorfer and his wife, Sarah, of Gracepoint Church of the Nazarene in Shawnee, Kansas, are working to build a foster care community in Basehor, a small town on the outskirts of the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Responding to the foster care shortage in Kansas, the Oberndorfers founded their nonprofit, Joy Meadows, in January 2018. They are a veteran foster care couple, and their organization wants to build a community that would serve foster children living in Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth, and Douglas counties.
“It’s not a group home, but it’s placing kids in single-family homes, which studies have shown is the best for them while they’re in foster care,” Sarah Oberndorfer told FOX4.
One year after starting the non-profit, the organization has raised nearly $500,000 for the project, and as of 16 May, Joy Meadows has also been approved as the USA/Canada Region’s newest Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Center.
“A lot of people jumped on board to support us,” Sarah said. “We got calls from different agencies, donations, people want to work with us.”
The original property that the couple was looking to build their dream community on fell through. They’re currently considering three properties in the area.
“What we want to do is build 5-10 homes, depending on how many acres we can get, and then we want to have a resource center on-site that will have therapy, academic tutoring, support, and training for foster parents,” Sarah said.
In the meantime, Joy Meadows has launched a clothing closet for foster children. On average, they’ve helped about 30 children every month this year.
“A lot of times, foster children have lost everything,” Sarah said. “We don’t want them to lose their self-esteem by the clothes they have to go to school in or things that don’t look nice or fit.”
Outside of providing clothing, Joy Meadows also started a program called Fostering Joy — an initiative that teaches churches how to recruit and support foster families.
“The burnout for most foster families happens within the first 10 months,” Justin said. “What we found is when they begin to implement our program through Fostering Joy, the churches who support those families will see over 95% retention over the first year.”
Members from churches, or care leaders, provide weekly meals, transportation, and offer to babysit and mentor when needed.
“When you have that, you see that the needs that the foster care family have all of a sudden begin to be minimized,” Justin said.
Rick St. Jean and his wife began fostering five months ago. He said the clothing closet and the Fostering Joy program have been a godsend.
“If we didn’t have any support, I feel like we probably will have already closed our house,” St. Jean said.
The Oberndorfers eventually want to take what they’ve grown so far with Joy Meadows and apply it to their foster care community. Until that happens, they plan to continue helping undeserved children and the people who take them in.
“We thought if we can just pour support into the foster families who in turn support the foster children, then you’re impacting that whole circle of care and you’re seeing better outcomes,” Sarah said.
The couple said they have received positive feedback from every foster care agency in Kansas, and the state fully backs their vision.
“We believe there couldn’t be a greater calling than to love a child,” Justin said.