FLINT, Michigan — It was September of 1978 when Robert Ennis began what he calls his lifelong work and ministry. Growing up without parents and raised by his grandparents, Ennis founded the Ennis Center For Children
, Inc. in Flint. “Our goal is to give our kids their forever home. Doing so is vital. However, it’s not just young children we work toward finding homes, but all the way up to age 17,” said Ennis, President and Founder.
This year, Ennis Center decided to celebrate its 45th birthday in November which is National Adoption Month. Not only does the center want to help raise awareness of finding forever homes for their kids, but it also wants to shed light on adoption issues along with how positive youth engagement is vital in the social, emotional, and educational development of a child.
Ennis Center also aims to raise money for its numerous focus areas that do not receive funding or that the state does not reimburse them for.
The campaign, which will run all month, is asking for people to donate $45. “If we don’t raise money, we don’t stay in business,” Ennis stated. “Therefore, the idea to ask for $45 donations in conjunction with their 45th birthday was the brainchild of Ennis Center’s Vice President of Development, Sheery Houston. “It made sense to ask for that amount seeing that it coincides with our 45th birthday,” Houston said. “However, we will take any donation people are willing to give.”
Houston hopes those who are able will donate more than $45, but also emphasizes that even a donation of $5 helps their cause. “We need help helping these children. They need clothes, beds, dental work, tutoring, and to participate in sports. None of these costs are reimbursed by the state,” she said.
Ennis Center is a foster care and adoption agency that focuses on working with neglected or abused children. Though founded in Flint, they now have seven different locations in Michigan. On an annual basis, they estimate the number of children and families in crisis they are able to help is just over 6,000.
On a typical day, they help over 500 youth alone in their foster care program. They work tirelessly in an effort to find foster homes for their young people while they wait to be adopted. “The goal is always reunification,” according to Houston. That means the hope is that they will return home to their birth parents.
The key word is hope. Yet, it’s not always that simple. While Ennis Center works with birth parents, getting them the help, resources, and rehabilitation services they need is ultimately determined by the family court system as to whether reunification will be possible.
If the judge decides to terminate their parental rights, the foster families are then given the option to adopt. The positive news is that when it comes to those foster families Ennis Center works with, approximately 85% will decide to adopt their foster children.
At the moment, Ennis Center has 300 kids waiting for adoption, and even more alarming are the statistics when you consider demographics. African Americans make up 13% of the population, whereas 56% of the youth in foster care are Black. “These youngsters want to be seen, heard, and loved,” Ennis said. “Our mission is not only to find forever homes for our foster kids but to also continue raising awareness that the system has been broken for quite some time. It’s still not working well and we want to improve it.”
Nearly 90% who enter the foster care system do so due to abuse or neglect. “Getting into the system is easy, but getting out of the system is hell,” Ennis emphasized.
For more information about Ennis Center and its 45th birthday celebration, visit: enniscenter.org. If you’d like to make a donation, click here.
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