One Church One Child, established as a national minority adoption recruitment program, was founded in 1980 by Father George Clements in the state of Illinois. One Church One Child was born out of Illinois’ adoption crisis in the 1970s - a disproportionate number of African American children available for adoption lingering in the foster care system. In 1979, 70% of children waiting to be adopted in Chicago were African American out of a child population of 26% African American. What became evident was that this type of disproportionality was nationwide.
Historically, the church has provided leadership in the African American community. As such, the state of Illinois recognized that a possible solution to moving African American children to permanency lay in forming a relationship between the state and the African American churches. As a Catholic pastor of one of the largest predominantly African American churches in Chicago and colleague with fellow Baptist and Methodist activist pastors in Chicago’s African American communities, Father Clements was identified as a key individual to bridge the existing gap between the state and the African American community. In working with Father Clements an alliance was formed between church and state which brought together African American ministers, adoptive parents and the Department of Children and Family Services. The efforts “to find one family in every one African American church in Illinois to adopt one child” was coined by Father Clements as One Church, One Child.
The efforts of One Church One Child in Chicago were successful and quickly moved masses of African American children from foster care into permanent adoptive families and homes.
As a result of the vision of men like Gregory Coler, Father Clements, John Casey, and Gordon Johnson, One Church, One Child was well on the way to becoming a vanguard in African American adoption. The dreams of these first advocates have helped implement One Church One Child programs across the nation for foster care and adoption recruitment and support for African American children.
In 1988 the states of New York, Illinois and Florida worked with Father Clements to form National One Church One Child. Soon after more than 35 states became involved in this national organization. This national organization sets goals in which each member state must follow. Listed below are the original goals of National One Church One Child:
- To facilitate a national appeal to recruit African American adoptive and foster families for African American children.
- To provide a national approach to reduce the length of stay of African American children in foster care who are available for adoption.
- To develop a national education campaign to raise the nation’s awareness of the disproportionate representation of African American children in foster care.
- To secure a national mandate which provides adequate permanent funding for the national office.
- To establish a national clearinghouse to document the number of African American children placed for adoption and those still available for adoption.
- To develop a national consortium for the provision of training and technical assistance.
- To develop a national resource lending library.
- To develop a national corporate public/private sponsorship division.
Over time, changes have occurred in the states including financial support, upsizing, downsizing, and additional projects/programs. However, the societal problems which necessitated the establishment of One Church One Child programs and the development of National One Church One Child continue to exist.
Unfortunately the reality of society’s problems impacting the lives of children, the disparities and the disproportionality of African American children in foster care waiting to be adopted are foundational reasons for National One Church One Child to continue to operate. Therefore the vision and mission of National One Church One Child remains the same, that of ensuring permanency for African American children.