Fresno church wants to find families for 15 foster kids in 15 months

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hanging above Pastor DJ Criner's desk is a picture of his daughter, Faith. He believes the church and the world need more of her.

"Why do we only have to have one Faith? How come we can't have many faiths within the church to take on children?"

Before Criner became Faith's father, he was her foster parent. He was there the day Faith's birth mother, a drug addict, went into labor in the third pew of St. Rest Baptist Church. Their story is why Criner is so passionate about foster care children and finding them stability.

"They've been stuck, lost, bouncing around from system to system and the only thing that adult needs is the same thing they needed when they were four or five-year-old is love," said Criner.

There are more than 21 hundred foster care children in Fresno County. Criner says the need spurred him and other local churches to approach the Department of Social Services to begin a program called Fresno Fifteen. The goal is to find permanent homes for kids between the ages of seven to ten who have been moved over six times. Some are stuck because of trauma, others because of medical conditions.

"Every time we have to move one to another, it's something they have to readjust to... and they don't trust the next person, it takes a while to build that," said Tricia Gonzalez, the Deputy Director of Child Welfare with the Department of Social Services.

The churches hope to place 15 kids in the next 15 months. About 45 families have already signed up for a workshop this Saturday. Pastor Criner says the qualifications are simple - all you need is love.

"To every Mufasa out, there is a Simba within these 15 that need you. You can either let them die in the wilderness, or you can teach them what Hakuna Matata actually means," said Criner.

The Fresno Fifteen Project kicks off Friday at Central Valley Community Foundation.

A workshop for those interested in being a foster parent will be held Saturday at the same location from 9 am to 1 pm.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.