DALLAS TWP. — Mandy Chapman was unhappy with the pain and trauma her youngest adopted son endured by a broken child welfare system, so she set out to find a solution.
What the mother of seven children, six of whom are adopted, discovered is an innovative national program called CarePortal, which aims at building a church-based support system to assist families to meet everyday needs.
“I want to create a community around families to help them stay together,” the 35-year-old Beaumont resident said.
CarePortal is an initiative of The Global Orphan Project, based in Kansas City, Mo., that connects caseworkers with participating churches.
When a family has a need, members convey it to their caseworker who sends an email to a network of churches, Chapman said. The churches then forward the email to their members.
Needs could range from a car seat for a foster family to accommodate a child, a car repair for parents to continue to go to work or a young adult who is aging out of the child welfare system in need of job training or a bed, she said.
A parishioner who can meet the request responds to the email and is put in touch with the caseworker, she said.
To date, Chapman has 12 area churches signed up to participate in the local program.
Churches and businesses can sign up to participate by emailing Chapman at email@example.com.
“Churches want to help, but they don’t know how,” she said. “We are bridging a gap to help families right here in Luzerne County.”
In March, she will roll out Pennsylvania’s first CarePortal program.
The occasion will be marked with a launch party tentatively scheduled for March 8 at Luzerne County Children and Youth Services, located at 111 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre.
Confirmation of the date and time will be posted on the CarePortal of Luzerne County Facebook page, Chapman said.
Chapman and her husband Doug have worked with the Commonwealth’s Child Welfare System for nearly a decade.
They adopted a total of six children, four of whom were foster children. The couple also has one biological child.
The children ages range from 5 to 20.
The process to foster a child involves home inspection, criminal history, child abuse clearance checks, Federal Bureau of Investigation clearances and proof of a sustainable income, according to Luzerne County Children and Youth Services website.
“They (caseworkers) try to fit a child with an appropriate family,” Chapman said. “They (caseworkers) really want to make connections between the child and foster family.”
To adopt a child requires “a lot more paperwork” as well as working with an adoption caseworker from a different agency, Chapman said.
Adoption caseworkers try to find as much information as possible about the child’s biological history to ensure a good family match, she said.
The adoption process takes a while to complete, Chapman said, adding it could be over three months after the biological parents terminate their parental rights before the adoption is finalized.
The adoption of the Chapmans’ youngest son involved some legal hurdles, which revealed a disconnect between the child welfare law and what is best for the child’s benefit, she said.
“He had been through more pain and trauma while in foster care - not from us - but what we had to make him go through,” Chapman said.
She did not go into detail about the requirements the family strived to meet, in an effort to maintain the child’s welfare and his biological family’s anonymity.
She does not blame Luzerne County Children and Youth Services and states the agency is “doing the best they can with the resources available to them.”
“Caseworkers are exhausted, stressed and underpaid,” Chapman said.
CarePortal of Luzerne County could offer some relief to not just struggling families but also to caseworkers as well, she said.
“I can see this (CarePortal) could really change the system,” Chapman said.