A group of Billings churches, along with a community organization, are trying to help solve the lack of foster care families in town.

“We firmly believe that foster parenting is a community effort,” said Jeromy Emerling, senior pastor at First Christian Church.

“Churches have a unique opportunity to serve as essential support to foster parents. We want to do things as a church to meet the problem (of foster parent shortages) and equip parents to take on that role, as well as take on as churches (creating) supportive environments for foster parents, a role that can be incredibly stressful.”

First Christian Church is teaming up with Child Bridge, a statewide group working to build awareness and recruit foster and adoptive families for Montana children via churches.

The group is putting on a recruitment and support event Friday to drum up support.

“We have received tremendous feedback about this event and expect a large crowd,” said Jeromy Emerling, senior pastor at First Christian Church.

Emerling said the Evening of Discovery is designed to inform potential foster parents, support them in the process and equip Billings-area churches to create supportive environments for foster parents in their congregations.

One program First Christian Church plans to roll out this fall, Emerling said, is a date night for foster parents. Those parents will be given a gift certificate for dinner and a movie, and the children they’re caring for will be cared for at the church.

An event highlight Friday will be a panel discussion with adults who grew up in the foster care system and foster parents, Emerling said.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, there were 2,718 children in foster care around the state on Aug. 31. That’s a 75 percent increase from 2008.

The 75-minute event begins at 6:30 p.m. at First Christian Church, 522 N. 29th St.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.