By Ernie Brown
We have often heard the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.
To build upon that theme, Mahoning County Children Services has embarked upon a program to increase adoption, especially among minority children.
It is called One Church, One Child, a program founded by the Rev. George Harold Clements, the black Roman Catholic priest from Chicago who, in 1981, became the first priest to adopt a child.
One Church, One Child is dedicated to finding adoptive parents for children who have been placed outside their natural homes. Father Clements has adopted four children, and since the program’s inception, more than 200,000 children across this nation have been adopted.
John Jemison, a Children Services employee, attended a state adoption conference in Columbus a year ago, and he said he came away with an urgency to know more about the One Church, One Child program.
“Although I was familiar with the program, I did not find the special interest in it at the time. But it became evident that Mahoning County Children Services could do more to recruit more families for the large, disproportionate number of older minority children in care in Mahoning County who need families,” Jemison said.
He said One Church, One Child is designed to increase partnership with the religious community with efforts to recruit families interested in fostering and adopting.
Furthermore, the program is geared to incorporate the leadership of the religious community with the resources of Mahoning County Children Services to secure permanent homes for children, he said.
November is National Adoption Month, and there is an invitation-only dinner set for next Saturday at the Holiday Inn in Boardman to further explain One Church, One Child.
The doors open at 5 p.m., and those attending will be able to hear Father Clements talk about the program he founded, which has spread throughout the country.
Father Clements, 76, attended St. Mary of the Lake Seminary School, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His biography says he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on May 3, 1957, and served as an associate pastor at St. Ambrose and St. Dorothy churches in Chicago; Holy Angels Church, Chicago, pastor, 1969-1991; and as a priest in the Diocese of Nassau, Bahamas, 1992.
Father Clements also has developed the One Church, One Addict program, a project which recruits faith communities and health care and education agencies to support recovering addicts.
After the One Million Man March in 1995, he implemented the One Church, One Inmate program, to recruit churches to provide aftercare for men and women who have been in prison.
He has worked tirelessly to improve educational opportunities for black Americans, to strengthen black families, to prevent drug and alcohol abuse in black communities, and to fight racism in the Catholic Church and American society. He marched in Selma, Ala., with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Jemison is working with a small staff of CSB employees made up of Radhika Cruz, Anita Wainwright and Gail Waters to get the word out and encourage area churches, particularly black congregations, to attempt to make life better for those children who need homes.
My family has long been involved in adoption, starting with my cousins, the Bunkleys, who lived in the city’s Brier Hill section and adopted two children, one of whom is now a minister.
My uncle and aunt have adopted a child, and my brother and sister-in-law also have adopted a child and were foster parents for many years. My wife and I also adopted a child.
The community should pray for success and reach out to participate in the One Church, One Child program.