In 1997, Bishop W. C. Martin led his church on a journey. This journey would see his small evangelical church in Possum Trot, along the Louisiana border in east Texas, adopt 77 children from the foster care system.

“There were no Gerber babies,” Bishop Martin recalled recently. His own adopted daughter, Mercedes, had been in nine homes that year before she came to stay with his family.

But he believed that his family, along with others in his 200-member Bennett Chapel, had a God-given mandate to care for the children in their community.

Bishop Martin has a reputation as a powerful preacher and spiritual leader. He will be in Los Angeles later this month to keynote OneLifeLA, the Catholic archdiocese’s annual family festival and pro-life celebration.

“We’re looking at this adoption thing wrong,” he told Angelus. Too many concerns about the financial aspects of welcoming a child, or the stereotyping of children in the foster system, have led to apathy to their plight, he explained.

“These are flesh-and-blood children that God allowed to come into this world,” he said. “With all the churches in the world, there should not be any fostering and adoption system.”

Increasingly, this attitude has become a part of the Catholic Church’s vision for social change and renewal in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County alone has more children in foster care than any other state in the nation, according to Kathleen Buckley Domingo, who heads the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace.

Recent data from the county shows there are more than 35,000 children in the foster care system — nearly 21,000 of those children have been removed from their homes.

But even as caseloads have held steady, the number of families willing to welcome these children has steadily declined by more than half — from 4,522 in 2007 to 2,081 today.

There are signs of hope in the air. Faith-based organizations and communities are stepping forward to change the conversation around foster care, and they are awakening families to the needs of the thousands of Los Angeles-area children who could use a supportive and stable presence in their lives.

Full story at Angelus.