Connecting Families for Christ

Connecting Families for Christ

By Sarah Whitman/ Tampa Bay Faith

In the last year, 3,289 children were removed from their homes in the Suncoast Region of Florida, which spans six counties including Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

Of more than 2,000 youths placed in licensed foster care, 583 went to loving Christian families trained and screened by A Door of Hope Tampa Bay, a non-profit organization based in Pinellas.

In 2018, A Door of Hope founder and director Godly Daniel set a goal to license 300 Christian foster homes by 2023.

“Just two years in and we have licensed 190 homes,” Daniel said. “That is all the Lord.”

Daniel, whose first name Godly often sparks conversation, is a firm believer in letting Him lead. As a twenty-something working for Walgreens pharmaceuticals, he felt God calling him to live his life for the Gospel. On a trip to visit family in India, he was struck by the hopelessness of people living in the slums.

“It broke me,” Daniel said. “God spoke to me there and said ‘I have so much more for you to do with your life.’ When I went home, I went to my bosses and gave my two-weeks notice.”

Daniel spent several years working for the foster care ministry 4Kids of South Florida. As Director of Safe Place, a 24/7 assessment center for children entering the foster system, he saw children pulled from homes poisoned by violence and addiction. Many had no where to go.

When Daniel and his wife, Jincy, moved to Tampa Bay, he was approached about starting a Christ-centered foster placement agency to serve the area.

“I thought, ‘I think I can do this,’ “Daniel said. “It was a vision that was being prayed for long before I moved to the Tampa Bay area.”

A Door of Hope hosted its first foster-parent training class in October 2012. The organization specifically readies families and singles to take in children who have been victims of abuse, abandonment or neglect. Potential fosters must complete an orientation and 24 hours of class time. They then undergo background screenings and a home study before qualifying for licensing by the State of Florida.

“It was definitely a slow start and, in the beginning, something few people wanted to be involved in,” Daniel said. “We spent years meeting with pastors and speaking at churches, licensing one home at a time. Now, it’s amazing, we have churches calling us asking how can they be part of what we God is doing.”

More than 60 church partners across Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties now help connect potential foster moms and dads with A Door of Hope.

“This is an opportunity to love like Christ and help those coming out of the brokenness of this world,” Daniel said. “These children need to know there is hope and they have a future.”

The local state agency keeps a list of foster parents trained and screened by A Door of Hope. When a child comes into custody, matching foster parents are contacted. Placement can occur within 24 hours.

About 25 percent of children in foster care are adopted
while 75 percent are unified with parents or family members.

Keeping communication lines open and co-parenting with biological parents offers a chance to share the Gospel not only with foster children but their birth families as well.

“We teach that, if possible, the main goal is reunification,” Daniel said. “If God can restore families, we want to see that happen.”

A Door of Hope fosters all have two traits in common: A heart for children and a love of Christ. No two families look exactly alike. Fosters range in age. Some have children of their own. Others do not.

“When people think of fostering ‘I could never do that’ is a statement we hear a lot,” Daniel said. “All we are really looking for are safe Christian homes where children can feel loved.”

Daniel grew up in a Christian home in New Jersey. When he was four-years-old his family immigrated to the United States from Kerala, India. In Kerala, it is common to meet people with first names such as Godly or Lovely, he said.

“When people of Kerala began converting to Christianity, they no longer wanted to give their children names connected to the Hindus gods, so they started giving names from the Bible like Matthew and John. When they ran out of those names, they started using adjectives.”

Being Godly is a blessing, Daniel said. Yes, the name causes confusion and raises questions. Still, the story behind it often leads to sharing his testimony with more people and those conversations always have the potential to open a door – maybe even a door of hope.

For more information on A Door of Hope, how you can help or becoming a foster visit