Connections: Richard L. Jackson
July 28, 2013
Foster Care Fix
Richard L. Jackson is chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Jackson Healthcare, the nation’s third-largest health care staffing company. He also is chairman of FaithBridge Foster Care, the organization founded by Bill R. Hancock (see Pentecostal Evangel, June 16, 2013, p.12) that works through local churches to provide training, certification and ongoing operation support to foster families while acting as an intermediary with government agencies. Jackson, 59, recently talked with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
evangel: Why do you see the involvement of congregations in foster care — as FaithBridge is promoting — as the solution to the foster care crisis?
Richard l. Jackson: The thing I liked about the FaithBridge community of care is that it basically says the church is the solution. Logistically, there are 20 times as many Christians as foster children. But people didn’t know how to go about foster care because they were dealing with the government, and it’s complicated.
Foster care traditionally has been an all-or-nothing proposition. Either you want to foster a child or you don’t. What I like about this program is if the answer is no, it doesn’t mean you can’t participate. You can still help fix food, provide transportation, or baby-sit so the mom and dad can go out on a date night. We have people who start out doing respite support who eventually become foster parents.
If everybody can give just a little bit of help, the foster child will never be the same. I was one such child.
evangel: Tell me about that.
Jackson: I went to eight different elementary schools. We were on welfare, moving everywhere. My mom was a waitress and had a sixth-grade education. She was alcoholic and abusive on several levels. I went into the foster care system when I was 13.
evangel: How did you find hope living with a foster care family?
Jackson: My first foster family was a solid Christian family. They said a prayer the first time we all sat down to dinner. There were six children, including me. I came away from that meal thinking this is the way life should be.
Foster care shows children that people do love them. This picture of educated people who love the Lord is different than the situation most foster kids come from. In addition to taking care of current needs, foster care plants a seed for the future. I ended up back with this family at 16, and today those parents are my three kids’ grandparents.
evangel: If you had not been placed in foster care, what would have happened to you?
Jackson: With no foster home available, you go back to an abusive, dysfunctional home. Or you end up on the streets. I could have used my talents for bad. [Having a foster family] changed the direction of my life.
evangel: As chairman of FaithBridge, what are your goals?
Jackson: To transform foster care in the United States by using the Christian church in an increasing capacity. This approach is scalable. Could we make a dent in the half million children in foster care? The answer is yes, if we get churches to take responsibility for and help steward the problem. If every one of these children were in a Christian home tonight, it would divert their pathway.
evangel: Is it too late for a couple to provide foster care once their biological children leave the home?
Jackson: For empty nesters it’s sometimes easier to take teenagers than small children. They can start out as respite parents. Often, God uses the heart of the wife to see the need and get the attention of her husband to encourage him to lead the family into foster care ministry.