Over the years, neighborhood churches have served many purposes besides being a house of prayer.
Church programs have fed the hungry, provided clothing for the needy and, particularly in the South, the church has served as a platform for social causes such as voting and civil rights.
The church also is being called upon to help increase adoptions of black children.
The Mahoning Valley will host the 24th annual National One Church, One Child Conference from Oct. 12 to 14 at the Avalon Inn, Resort and Conference Center, 9519 E. Market St., Howland.
It is the first time the national conference will be in Ohio.
One Church, One Child is a partnership between local churches and children-services agencies to assist in the adoption process.
The conference will feature workshops, preaching and fellowship. The theme is “Faith in Action: Embracing the Call to Foster & Adopt.”
The One Church, One Child concept was created by the Rev. George Clements in Chicago in 1980. The black Roman Catholic priest became the first priest to adopt a child. He later adopted three more children.
Father Clements, 79, spoke here in 2008 at the Holiday Inn in Boardman about the program he founded, and he is scheduled to speak at the conference Oct. 12 and 13.
Father Clements said the problem of finding homes for children has become more acute over the past 25 to 30 years.
He gave two main reasons behind that problem.
“First, there is a proliferation of babies having babies. Today’s young girls are not capable of raising children, and they are putting them up for adoption,” he said.
“Also, a large number of babies are being born to parents with substance- abuse problems, so-called ‘crack babies,’ and those children are now also up for adoption,” he said, adding that it is more difficult to find homes for those children.
Father Clements said that is where the church can come into play.
“One Church, One Child attempts to try to find families in various churches to reach out and help adopt these children,” he said.
According to national OCOC officials, more than 1,000 churches in 35 states belong to the OCOC program. One Church One Child has directly impacted the adoption of more than 100,000 children nationwide.
Twenty-four churches from around Mahoning County participate in One Church, One Child. Trumbull County, however, does not have any member churches, according to OCOC officials. More churches are encouraged to attend the conference and find out more about the program.
The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Jimmy Baldwin Sr. of Maryland, who serves as the longest-tenured member of One Church, One Child of Maryland. He speaks Oct. 13.
The conference also incorporates the leadership and support of the churches with the resources and skills of children- services organizations to secure homes.
It will offer training sessions on issues at the core of the movement. They are:
Recruiting foster and adoptive parents.
Establishing partnerships with faith communities.
Permanency planning and the adoption process.
Trauma-competent parenting the adoptive child.
The three-day event is geared to clergy and laity in the faith community, public children-services administration and staff, private-agency administration and staff and foster and adoptive parents.
There are exhibitor, vendor and program opportunities still available.
For example, a $200 sponsorship will allow your organization to have a display table to show your program’s available services and also gets you a full-page ad in the conference program.
Those interested in helping in the development of the conference, participating as a vendor or a registrant, should contact John Jemison, the OCOC project executive coordinator, at 330-941-8854 or email@example.com, or the Rev. Dr. Lewis Macklin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 330-788-1696 or 330-941-8888.
The Rev. Dr. Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Youngstown’s South Side, also is one of the conference speakers.
For specific conference information, contact Kim Wilson at email@example.com, by fax at 330-941-8787, or at 330-941-8888.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.