Bobby Duke smiling with his family

In recognition of National Foster Care Awareness Month, the city of Glendora recently honored residents Bobby Duke, Ph.D., dean of APU’s School of Theology and Seminary, and his wife, Jenny, with a proclamation for their work as foster parents and advocates. Community leaders, elected officials, and family and friends gathered at the Glendora City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 22, for a special ceremony, which also celebrated the Duke family’s official adoption of their five-year-old daughter Jaicee finalized earlier last month.

America's Christian Credit Union (ACCU) partnered with Glendora to host this event. The ACCU offers a special financing program for people looking to adopt. Fawn Imboden, ACCU vice president and chief development officer, said the Duke family’s story can inspire others to consider how they may help solve the foster care crisis.“This God-given opportunity to lift up the name of Christ and honor the Dukes proved even more meaningful with Jaicee’s recent adoption,” Imboden said.

The Dukes began foster parenting in 2011. They first welcomed Jaicee into their home almost five years ago when she was an infant. The Dukes also have three other children. “We felt a calling as a family to open our homes, but we had to prepare ourselves for the rollercoaster, the ups and downs of the foster care system,” Duke said. “We work with an infant care home, and we received our first daughter Mariah in January 2012 when she was about three months old. Her adoption was finalized by July 2013, but with Jaicee, who has also been with us since she was three months old, it took almost five years.”

Duke said that as a Christian, he views adoption as a way to fulfill God’s call to care for the widow and orphan. “Think of Bible passages in the books of James and Isaiah. Scripture tells us that our faith is connected to our actions. Fostering and adoption are tangible ways to put our faith into action.”

Duke’s belief in faith-based advocacy drives him to create opportunities to raise awareness on this issue. In 2014, Duke partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to organize an interfaith foster care summit for clergy in Los Angeles County, which encouraged and offered support to foster care families of all faith backgrounds.

“If a member of every church, mosque, and synagogue in our nation took one child into their homes, the current 400,000 children in the foster care system would be taken care of,” Duke said.

On May 30, Duke coordinated and moderated the San Gabriel Valley’s first Foster Youth to College Summit sponsored by the Department of Children and Family Services (DFCS). Representatives from local school districts and APU, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Citrus College attended.

“The goal for the summit is to connect different groups with resources to collaborate efficiently on this issue. It’s so often the case that resources get siloed and stored for each group,” Duke said.

APU President Jon R. Wallace, DBA, introduced the event and U.S. Congressmember Grace Napolitano, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and DCFS Director Bobby Cagle each gave opening remarks.

Duke shared statistics about foster youth outcomes after the age of 18. He said that 84 percent of youth who age out of foster care want to go to college, 51 percent who do not complete high school, and less than 4 percent finish college.

“As an administrator in higher education, I ask myself, how do I use my platform and power to make the world better for those around me?” Duke said. “People often think of college as an ivory tower set apart for the privileged, but what are we doing to make sure that foster children’s futures are taken care of? On our own, we can do some good, but when we come together, we can be great.”