For the children: Local church features children in need of permanent homes

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

IN NEED: First Baptist Church Picayune minister Dr. Keith Warden looks at the children featured in The Mississippi Heart Gallery, which is on display in the church foyer throughout the end of this week. Photo by Cassandra Favre

IN NEED: First Baptist Church Picayune minister Dr. Keith
Warden looks at the children featured in The Mississippi Heart
Gallery, which is on display in the church foyer throughout the end
of this week.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

“Anyone who doesn’t have experience with adoption wonders, ‘Does love for a child come through DNA?’ I knew it didn’t” –– Katherine Heigl

This week, the faces of children in need of permanent homes can be found in the foyer at First Baptist Church of Picayune.
First Baptist Church minister Dr. Keith Warden said many of their church members are foster parents and that’s how the church learned about the Mississippi based adoption agency 200 Million Flowers.
The agency was founded four years ago by a family law attorney who sought to leverage his law practice to help connect children in Mississippi with families, 200 Million Flowers Executive Director Rick Valore said.
According to the organization’s website, the name was inspired by this quote by Mother Teresa, “How can there by too many children? It’s like saying there are too many flowers.”
“Our agency mobilizes people in local churches to consider becoming foster or adoptive parents to children in Mississippi’s foster care system or those who are born to mothers in a crisis pregnancy,” Valore said. “We have an agreement with the Department of Human Services and help create exposure for children legally available for adoption.”
When a child is taken from their biological parents, they are placed into foster care, Valore said. If a judge decides to terminate the parents’ rights, then those children become wards of the state.
“There is a great need for foster parents across our state,” Valore said. “On any one day, there are more than 5,000 children in DHS custody. There is a shortage of foster parents, especially in the coastal counties.”
Before becoming a foster parent, applicants must complete a series of tasks, which begins with a trip to the county’s DHS office.
Applicants must fill out the required paperwork, complete 27-hours of training, pass background checks and a home study, Valore said. The process takes about four to six months and there is no cost to applicants.
“The parents also have control of the age of the children who are brought into their home,” Valore said. “Generally, a child remains in foster care for less than a year, as 50 percent of children end up going home within the first year. In some cases, a child could be in foster care for as long as two years while their parents try to get their lives stable.”
People who are interested in adoption must first become licensed foster parents, Valore said. After certification, they may contact a child’s social worker to see if there is an interest.
“Transitional visits are arranged and the parents meet children in a low risk situation,” Valore said. “After, they may plan weekend visits, which gives the child a chance to hang out at their house. If all goes well, the child will begin the transition to the couple’s home.”
The child must live within his or her new home a minimum of six months before parents can petition the court for an adoption hearing, Valore said. The entire process takes about a year.
It’s virtually free to adopt a child out of foster care in Mississippi, Valore said. However, there is no guarantee the same child parents first saw will still be there once they complete the process because another family may become licensed first and take that child.
“Foster care and adoption is very rewarding for people who are called to do it,” Valore said. “It’s far more revolutionary for the parents than the children. Scripture is full of admonitions for God’s people to care for parents and children. Many people think that children who are in an orphanage have lost their parents to death, but their parents may be alive, just not functioning in that role.”
The heart gallery at First Baptist Church has been up for the past weeks and will be on display until this Friday, Warden said.
“Our folks have responded well,” he said. “We want to encourage our families to do something that’s needed in our county. You don’t have to foster or adopt either, but can support and administer to those that do.”
On August 2 at 2 p.m., the church will host an informative meeting in the fellowship hall for anyone wanting to know how their church can help support foster care families in the county, First Baptist Church of Picayune Associate Pastor Ryan Wade said.
Another meeting will be held on August 16 at 4 p.m. in the fellowship hall for people interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent. A DHS representative will also be in attendance, Wade said.
For more information about 200 Million Flowers and to view their photo gallery, visit

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