This weekend’s football season opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide hasn’t been the only thing on the minds of the Missouri Tigers of late.
That’s because Mizzou recently became the second NCAA Division I football program to partner with the Global Orphan Project to help keep kids out of foster care in Missouri and beyond if possible.
Like Liberty University’s football program before it, the Mizzou squad is now holding weekly meetings to allocate funds privately donated to a special football program affiliated account created for the purpose of addressing the immediate needs of families in crisis.
“The players decide what to approve for which families in certain adopted cities,” said Jon Cassat, chief marketing officer of the Global Orphan Project, in a news release, “and then local partner organizations and individuals in those cities take care of the need using funds from the MU football donor fund.”
The Global Orphan Project’s CarePortal is the connecting platform, Cassat said. “Missouri football players are the catalyst. And local volunteer responders provide the wrap-around support to the children and families in need.”
The local volunteer supporters are members of Angel Armies, a nonprofit coalition of churches and community organizations formed by Grammy Award-winning Christian singer Chris Tomlin.
Each week, the youth on the football team break up into groups by academic class — freshman, sophomore, junior, senior — to do their part to gang tackle the foster care problem. Deciding where the money goes is a heavy lift for the strapping young men on the Missouri Tigers, many of whom experienced difficult childhoods of their own and can relate to the plights of the families in crisis.
Using CarePortal, they consider which families, who come from all over the country, seem like wise investments. Guided by coaches, they seek to make the best use of the available funds.
Family separation is traumatic for children and parents alike. The idea is to keep families intact by providing them with the services and other supports needed to heal as an intact unit. In the child welfare industry, foster care placement is ideally a last resort. Yet on any given day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 437,000 American children go to sleep in a foster care setting. And the system grows every year.
In the news release, Joe Knittig, chief executive officer of CarePortal, described the partnership with Mizzou and Angel Armies as a strategic one, in that “the foster system is ground zero for systemic change in this nation.”
“We must unite across lines of race, class and culture to strengthen families on the brink and care for children in crisis,” he continued. “That is exactly what the young men at Mizzou football are doing. They’re taking it personally, leading through action.”
Tomlin, the singer who founded Angel Armies, seemed to hint in the news release that the Missouri Tigers might not be the last team to “come together and champion for children and families in need. They are leading the way for college football teams to make a difference both on and off the field.”
Mizzou football is meeting needs in the Missouri cities of St. Louis, Kansas City, Cape Girardeau as well as Los Angeles and Phoenix. Officials would not say how much money is in the fund, but they stressed that the money comes from private donors. So far, however, the program has met 53 needs serving a total of 198 children, they said.
Active in 21 states, CarePortal says its more than 200 agencies, 2,400 churches, and thousands of community members have served 71,000 children to date.