The unexpected story God writes

Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO), the parent organization of Encourage is celebrating 50 years of ministry this year! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry to demonstrate the transformational work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling).

Today, Amanda Beery, Encourage foster parent, shares her family’s journey of foster care to adoption. Amanda first believed their family would help children in need through private infant adoption, but God had other plans.

In story 41, Amanda tells of her experience with honesty and vulnerability. Through a special relationship with a birth mom, God transformed her heart.

Loudly and clearly, He asked me to break down the walls and open my eyes to see that this road was never just about loving a baby. It was about pouring out the love He has poured in me to the point of empty. He reminded me what He values, birth families included.

Read Amanda’s full story and consider the significance of the relationship between foster families and biological families. Then let God write your story.

You can find our 50th anniversary story series at ccho.org/stories. You’ll have the opportunity to share your own story as well.

The power of connection

This summer, Encourage Foster Care offered Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) training to all of our foster families. TBRI was developed at Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University, which defines TBRI as “an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory-processing and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI is connection.”

Encourage uses the TBRI approach because connecting and belonging is central to the human heart. It is central to how we were created in God’s image. Out of that is a deep desire for connection with those near to us. TBRI is consistent with Scripture’s message of a loving God who offers grace and redemption for both our spiritual condition and our physical and relational brokenness.

TBRI offers practical tools to effectively empower and connect with children from hard places. Its roots are found in Attachment Theory, the idea that infants create special bonds with their caregivers. Children with secure attachments have healthy social functioning and fewer behavioral problems at school, and they often become competent leaders within their peer groups. TBRI teaches caregivers to develop mindfulness strategies about their own attachment styles and how to best connect with children who come into their homes from hard places.

Our foster parents feel empowered by TBRI because it’s helping them strengthen relationships with their foster children. We love to hear how foster parents are growing themselves by developing a more secure attachment. Many of our foster families have their own broken histories, and like all other families, may have struggles with their biological children. TBRI offers hope to families so they can take better care of themselves, and in turn, take great care of the kids in their home.

TBRI principles are also used across our family of ministries. CCHO’s Children’s Residential Center uses TBRI to develop trust with new residents. The residential cottages and many of our foster homes use the empowerment principles to help children build trust through nutrition and hydration. Many of our kids have food issues. Staff and foster parents are finding that offering healthy snack options is a great way to engage and connect. Encompass Christian Counseling utilizes Attachment Theory. Helping parents develop self-awareness of how they attach to others and how they can work on themselves improves their relationship with their children.

Encourage case managers reinforce TBRI principles with foster parents to ensure they are utilizing this method daily with their youth. Going forward, TBRI will be included in our pre-service foster parent training.

Trainings such as this one are just one way that Encourage equips our foster parents to be successful in what God has called them to. For additional information about becoming a foster parent, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

The Ziegler Family

Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO), the parent organization of Encourage is celebrating 50 years of ministry this year! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry to demonstrate the transformational work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling).

Story #36 in our series highlights another of Encourage’s families. Brian and Susie Ziegler responded to Scripture’s call in James 1:27 to reach out and show love to children in need. In opening up their home, they have grown as parents and learned new ways to connect with youth in foster care. They are truly building up and affirming the children in their home.

Watch their video to learn more about their family’s foster-to-adopt story and how they have appreciated working with the Encourage team. We are grateful that God has used them to help children experience their worth in Christ.

You can find our 50th anniversary story series at ccho.org/stories. You’ll have the opportunity to share your own story as well.

Grace for birth parents

How we think about and care for birth families is an important piece of our work in foster care. There are some who would say that the relationship with birth parents is one of the hardest parts of being a foster parent. We struggle with the pain they have caused. We hurt watching the foster kiddos in our homes navigate these sensitive relationships. We have a hard time imagining being in the biological parent’s shoes. We often don’t know the words to say when interacting.

Sometimes it’s awkward and we don’t feel loving towards them.

And that’s okay to admit.

In foster care, we aim for reunification when possible. As Christians in foster care, we seek to live out gospel-centered lives. We believe in healing for our foster kiddos from the trauma they’ve experienced. We hope for healing from addiction and other paths that have captured birth parents.

We pray for our foster youth. We can equally pray for their biological families. And we can listen to their stories and ask God to make us teachable and open towards opportunities to show His grace.

Here’s one birth mom’s story of redemption from addiction, her gratitude for the foster family who took care of her son while in recovery, and her beautiful faith in God who sustains her.

For over six years, Ashley was caught in the cycle of addiction. Her son was removed from her care and placed into foster care because of it. After two years in the system, Ashley and her son were reunified, and she is now a passionate advocate for foster care.

Listen to the podcast from The Forgotten Initiative.

One common question

So many questions come up when you consider fostering. There’s a lot to ponder as you seek to do what’s best for your family and follow the Lord in His plans for you.

We asked one of our seasoned foster families to address one common question.

The Beery Family is a Foster It Forward mentor family with Encourage helping their mentees feel more connected and better equipped to handle the unique challenges that come with fostering children. Elijah and Amanda Beery chose the journey of being a foster family out of direct obedience to the call God had on their life.

They are also excited to share their experiences and provide guidance to others considering next steps in fostering. Meet Amanda at our You Can FosterToo.com event at the Wayne County Public Library on Tuesday, August 6.

For additional information or to ask a question today, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

Yes, You Can FosterToo.com

We rent our home.
I am single.
We have full-time jobs.
We have two dogs.
I am divorced.
We are retired.
We don’t live in Wayne County.
We home school our children.
We are scared to say yes.

There are so many questions that come up when you consider fostering. Sometimes prospective parents aren’t sure if they can even become foster parents. We understand. Our team is here to walk beside you through this process and help you feel empowered. Because, yes, you can foster too!

With those questions and nervous feelings in mind, we are hosting a special info session on Tuesday, August 6 from 6:30 to 8pm at the Wayne County Library. This informal and authentic conversation is open to anyone who has any questions about becoming a foster or respite parent. Or even questions about mentoring a foster child or teen.

Encourage staff and seasoned foster parents will be present to share from their personal experiences and answer your questions. Spoon Market & Deli will also be providing some delicious food for our gathering. Please rsvp today so we can serve you well.

For additional information, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

Foster care perspective

One of the greatest needs within foster care is homes for teenage youth.

Providing them with a stable environment increases their likelihood of graduating high school and going on to college. Their home life experience may have been unstable, but that doesn’t decrease their God-given potential and dreams.

Cordelia Crenshaw, the new Miss District of Columbia USA, grew up in the foster-care system. Her determination helped her achieve a strong education and she is now a social worker and founder of a nonprofit. She recently shared her personal struggles and perspective on youth in similar circumstances.

Here’s what a lot of people don’t understand: To live in foster care is to live in a state of inconsistency. Due to a lack of resources, there simply aren’t enough quality foster homes, and rising housing costs make it even harder for foster families to find the space they need. This especially affects kids in urban areas. As a result, many more children end up in institutions, which are often rife with abuse and poor conditions.

(Read the full article.)

Fostering a teen means giving support and stability at a time when education and relationships are significant. We would love to talk with and help you with questions regarding opening your heart and home to a teenager in foster care. Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist would be happy to speak with you by phone or in person. Reach out today at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

We also invite you to join us for an informal and authentic conversation on Tuesday, August 6 with Encourage staff and seasoned foster parents. Yes, you can fostertoo.com!

The Kandel Family

Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO), the parent organization of Encourage is celebrating 50 years of ministry this year! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry to demonstrate the transformational work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling).

Story #19 in our series highlights another of Encourage’s families. When Julie Kandel and her husband Ron began their foster and adoption journey in 1991, they couldn’t have imagined they would one day have 18 children (including three biological daughters). Theirs is an incredible story of answering God’s call for their lives and their family, of trusting during each step of the process, and of persevering through incredible tragedy to provide a safe haven for young children in need of a loving home.

Watch their video to learn more about their family’s story. We are thankful for a God Who orchestrates our lives and uses us along the way to make all things new.

We were honored to have the Kandels join us for our 50th anniversary benefit dinner. What a joy to celebrate their service!

You can find our 50th anniversary story series at ccho.org/stories. You’ll have the opportunity to share your own story as well.

In brokenness and beauty

Our Encourage team recently had an opportunity to travel together to the Children’s Alliance for Orphans’ Summit, held this year in Louisville, Kentucky. This was a wonderful way for our staff to consider how we may better recruit and serve families who provide care for children from local children services agencies in Northeast Ohio.

Our team came away refreshed, refueled and embraced by many wonderful speakers, workshops, and special times of praise and worship. The CAFO conference was a breathtaking reminder to focus on His faithfulness.

The 2019 conference theme, In Brokenness and Beauty, It is Well, resonated deeply with each team member. It was stated by the conference organizers, “We believe that this, after all, is where life-to-the-full is found. Not easy life. But the best life. If beauty and brokenness must come together, we choose both. Whether in times of great joy—seeing good fruit rise from our love and our labors—or grieving in the hurt of it all, we know that the hands of our good Father are beneath and above and all around, holding us in His great love.”

We see this image play out each day with the lives of children placed with our foster families. Children come from very broken and disturbed backgrounds. They are often full of fear, distrust and uncertainty. Through consistent care and kindness, our Encourage families embrace these children and help them go from a place of fear and into an opportunity for God to instill hope and peace.

Here are a few quotes that stood out to our team members:

“If a man’s castle is his home… then a foster home should be a hospital.” – Krish Kandiah

“Behavior is the language of children who have no voice.” – Karyn Purvis

“Don’t guard your heart, open you heart.” – Pam Taylor, Foster mom

“We are on holy ground here, when untold agony begins to find its voice. If there ever is a sacred moment, it is when a soul whose torment has been suppressed and silenced finally begins to speak.” – Richard Fenn

In response to her experience at the CAFO conference, Annita Justice, Foster Care Coordinator, said, “I am forever grateful that we join the broken, vulnerable moments with the children we serve as it empowers us to be agents of change in identifying beauty amidst a painful circumstance. During these challenging times, we allow the children to embrace their beautiful worth in Christ who loves unconditionally.”

Courtney McConahay, Foster Care Coordinator, also reflected about her time at the Summit. “God has called us to care for the fatherless/motherless, orphan, foster child and adoptee. He can restore us and make us new again. Only our Father can do that. It is only through Him that I— that we—can walk along side these children, foster-adoptive parents and bioparents and participate in His will for them, to watch Him break the chains of bondage in all of us. This is where beauty is restored. This is how it is well. My prayer for our agency is that we can lean in and share that encouragement, that we can face trauma and fear head on knowing God is with us and is moving, restoring, bringing beauty from ashes (brokenness) and we can proclaim—It. Is. Well.”

See the possibility

Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO), the parent organization of Encourage is celebrating 50 years of ministry this year! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry to demonstrate the transformational work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling).

Story #11 in our series is courtesy of Emily Engman, LSW, foster care assessor and trainer here at Encourage. Emily shares from her heart about foster care and child welfare. She sees the hard times but also the good in the kids and families she serves. She also has a vision for all that is possible when we consider the hope of Jesus and respond in faith.

The hope in Jesus is that there is restoration for each and every one of us. For the parent who hurts their child. For the foster parent that wants to quit. For the child whose behaviors makes them seem most unlovable. There is nothing that brings me greater joy than to help a foster and adoptive family through the struggle of foster care and see them come out on the other side.

(Read the full post.)

Her words are timely as we recognize National Foster Care Month this May. During this month, she gives a special reminder that “each and every foster parent, biological family and foster child has value and meaning beyond ourselves.”

You can find our 50th anniversary story series at ccho.org/stories. You’ll have the opportunity to share your own story as well.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!