Believe: A vision for 100,000 kids in foster care
by Carol Lee, Senior Editor
“I often think,What would my life be if my parents hadn’t taken the initiative to say, ‘Hey, a child needs a home’? They gave me an opportunity.”
Willie Moore Jr. is an actor, producer, speaker, comedian, radio host, Grammy-award-winning R&B artist, and a licensed minister from St. Louis, Missouri. He’s also an adoptee with a vision to help more than 100,000 children in U.S. foster care find permanent homes. He has a personal story, a passion, and a platform to reach families across the country—particularly African American families—encouraging them to get involved.
“In the African American community, families have always been fostering and adopting, but in informal ways,” said Willie. “When kids need a family, there’s often a grandma or an auntie in the family who can help. In a global market, people are seeing that kids who need families aren’t bad kids; they’re kids who have had a tough beginning, and they need someone to love them through whatever they’re going through.”
For years, Willie has used his considerable multimedia platform to encourage families to foster and adopt. In December 2018, at his 40th birthday “Party with a Purpose,” he launched a partnership with Bethany, referring interested families to take the next step with one of Bethany’s 130 offices across the country. Every part of his message underscores his conviction that, together, we can change the world through family.
Growing a platform
Willie was 3 months old when he was adopted by Willie Sr. and Flora Moore. He enjoys a close relationship with his parents, calling them twice a day, every day—in the morning and again after his daily radio show. “I don’t think I could formulate in words the love I have for them,” said Willie. “I know I wouldn’t be the husband and father I am today if it wasn’t for their sacrifice and for the example they showed me in their home.”
Over the last 10 years, the scope of Willie’s media influence has grown to include 547,000 followers on Facebook, 272,000 followers on Instagram, and more than 10 million views on YouTube. His “Willie Moore Jr. Show” reaches more than 1.7 million radio listeners each week, and he can also be seen on BET’s “Joyful Noise” and Juce TV’s “The Crew,” reaching more than 60 million households worldwide.
About five years ago, Willie sensed a deeper calling on his life. “I was on a beach in Florida, watching my children play and jump around in the ocean,” said Willie. “I looked to my right, and there was Patricia, my wife, and I felt so grateful. I felt like I’d accomplished something bigger than my career—being a husband and a father. I prayed to God in that moment and said, ‘Thank You. I appreciate this.’ And then a question formed: What is all this for? Lying on the beach that day, I began thinking about kids like I was, who needed an adoptive family, and how I could help.”
Gaining new partners
A few years ago, as Willie was doing some online research, he found Bethany’s website and a description identifying Bethany as the largest Christian adoption agency in the U.S. He began browsing the site, noting the scope of Bethany’s services, locations across the country, and names of local board members in Atlanta, where he now lives. In the summer of 2018, when Willie posted his adoption story on Instagram, he noticed that Bethany had reposted it. He knew it was time to reach out, and he made a call to Bethany. From there, he connected with Kimberly Offutt, Bethany’s nationwide foster care adoption liaison, who is also based in Atlanta. That call, he says, was “a match made in heaven.”
Willie officially kicked off the partnership on December 20, 2018, at a special adoption-themed birthday celebration at his church, Word of Faith Cathedral, in Atlanta. Several of his friends in the Gospel music industry attended and performed, and Willie shared his vision for a family for every waiting child in foster care. Kim introduced Bethany and shared how the American Church is already poised to meet this need—with more than 300,000 churches across the country, it would take just one family from every three U.S. churches to adopt. At that, Willie’s pastor, Bishop Dale C. Bronner, challenged his church—a congregation of more than 19,000 people—saying, “We can do better than that.”
That night alone, 50 Word of Faith families stepped forward to learn more.
Telling the story
Adoption and foster care had long been part of Willie’s inspirational message as he shared his personal story. But he didn’t have a trusted partner he could refer listeners and followers to when they were ready to get involved. “For two years, I’d tell people, ‘Give me your email address,’” said Willie. “I didn’t know how it would come together. But, by faith, I knew that it would. Now I’ve emailed those people back to say, ‘Here’s a link. Here’s a number you can call.’ This partnership is an answer to prayer.”
Beginning in January 2019, Willie began making direct appeals to his listeners, viewers, and followers to consider foster care and adoption, and he began pointing them to Bethany. Each week, he features a waiting child on his social media page. Early in the partnership, from 3–7 p.m., the four-hour block of Willie’s radio show, Kim was receiving up to 10 calls a day from families wanting to learn more. This momentum was just beginning.
In early 2019, Kim joined Willie and Patricia on an eight-city tour. Each “Night of Love” event was designed to be a fun, inspirational date night for couples with a message about strengthening their relationship. At each tour stop, Willie shared his adoption story and interviewed a local Bethany family about their adoption experience. Attendees could request more information about adoption and foster care on the spot, and they could also give a donation to the WilFlo Foundation, named for Willie’s parents, to help kids find families.
Spreading the message
Willie’s message is connecting with people at all levels of readiness—those who perhaps have never considered this path for themselves and those who have been thinking about adoption and foster care for some time but didn’t know where to begin. It’s also resonating with adoptees like Willie. “People have been coming out of the woodwork, saying, ‘I’m adopted too!’” he said. “People are excited about this message.”
Last December, Willie hosted an adoption awareness event—“Day of the A”—in Atlanta. Guests included Atlanta’s mayor and some of Willie’s celebrity friends who shared adoption stories and encouraged people to consider becoming foster and adoptive parents. That event alone raised more than $100,000 to support families that foster or adopt through Bethany.
Willie’s creativity and energy runs deep, and he has more plans to rally families together for children. Working through the WilFlo Foundation, his three-year vision is to focus primarily on the southeastern U.S. to connect kids in foster care with mentors, provide online educational content to adoptive families, and find homes for kids. His short-term goals include releasing a documentary film, continuing to build momentum for his message, and—per his trademark—“keeping it 100.”
In the second year of this partnership, Bethany had received more than 400 inquiries, driven by Willie’s personal passion for kids and families. “This message—that kids need families—has organically evolved to where we are now,” said Willie. “I couldn’t have planned to become a foster care and adoption ambassador; it’s just my story, and I’ve never shied away from telling my story. I thank God He’s using me to help kids have a home and a family.”
The Willie Moore Jr. Show airs Mondays–Fridays from 3–7 p.m. EST. on WPRS-FM (Praise 104.1), an Urban Gospel radio station based in Washington, D.C. Listen online at PraiseDC.com.