LDS women leaders discuss importance of strengthening families

In an effort to work together with other government, business and religious leaders to address a growing need for foster care for children, women leaders of the Church attended a community leaders breakfast hosted by the Church in Oklahoma City on Aug. 4.

“It was heartwarming to see the community support for children in foster care,” said Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president. “We can all do something to show our love for God and His children by serving others, which begins in our own homes and communities.”

Sister Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, also attended the event.

“It was a gathering of ‘one heart and one mind’ as members of various churches met at the breakfast to share ideas for strengthening homes and providing hope for foster children,” said Sister Marriott. “The clearly stated faith of Baptist, Jewish, Mormon and Protestants created common ground for all to discuss their support for good foster homes in Oklahoma City.”

For Sister Bingham and Sister Marriott, foster care is something they know about first hand. For many years, Sister Bingham and her husband, Brother Bruce Bingham, were foster parents to a number of children for various amounts of time, some of whom they still consider part of their family. In addition to her 11 children, Sister Marriott and her husband, David, also welcomed a foster daughter in their home for a time.

During their visit to Oklahoma the three women toured Sunbeam Family Services, the oldest nonprofit organization in Oklahoma City, and delivered a donation of more than $12,000 in car seats, blankets and other items needed for children in foster care.

Erin Engelke, chief external relations officer of Sunbeam Family Services, said the Latter-day Saint donation was the largest in-kind donation the organization has ever received.

“Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help,” said Midge Woodward, Sunbeam’s director of Foster Care.

According to an article on LDS Newsroom, in 2015 Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and the Department of Human Services launched an initiative called Oklahoma Fosters to serve a growing number of children in state custody and work to recruit new foster and adoptive families. The state has one of the highest numbers of children in foster care in the country.

Other community members at the breakfast included Rev. Major Lewis Jemison, senior pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church, and Rabbi Abby Jacobson of the Rabbi Emmanuel Synagogue and president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma.