Encourage’s director, Shawn Pedani, LISW-S, reflects on the year . . .
Our team recently had a year-end get-together and reflected on all the highlights and blessings we’ve seen from God this past year within Encourage. I thought I’d hear their excitement of the new growth with more foster families and the ability to place more children as well as new local church partnerships who share in the same passion to help children locally.
However, what I heard was worth noting and sharing with our extended Encourage family. The staff shared that while they were thrilled with the addition of 19 new families (not including the current 12 in process), they were even more thrilled with the growth internally in our department. Our team was ecstatic about expanding to neighboring communities and churches as well as the depth of our staff.
Team members voiced their feelings about growing together with one unified purpose. One team member shared, “I feel like we are bigger but at the same time more singular in our mission.” Another commented that we were making strides to implement Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), an evidenced-based model for parenting traumatized youth, to all of our treatment families. A staff who joined the team in 2018 felt she was “welcomed into a wonderful community that will support, uplift and challenge you in the workplace.”
I simply love that about our team.
With a busy 2019 in the works as it relates to trainings and licensing families, I’m happy to report the progress of new programs launched in 2018. We are seeing wonderful development and rich connections with our new mentor program: A Friend in Fostering. While not everyone can take in a foster youth, everyone can help or volunteer. We are also beginning to see more and more families considering and taking in youth who are otherwise, a challenge to place. We believe this comes as result of the additional trainings and support we are providing through the First Fridays events and TBRI curriculum. This will be a continued focus in the new year.
Looking forward to all that God will do in 2019,
Dear prospective foster parents,
As the Recruiter and Engagement Specialist for Encourage Foster Care I have the opportunity to connect with individuals and couples who have a heart to foster. I have such a great passion for our organization, and I absolutely love speaking with prospective foster parents and sharing the needs with them.
My role as a recruiter is to guide you, as prospective foster parents, answer your questions and inform you on what sets Encourage apart from other agencies. I’m the entry point for foster parents but I’m also committed to supporting you throughout this entire journey. The decision to become foster parents to children that have endured trauma and unfortunate difficult transitions can be an overwhelming yet joyful experience. I take the time to talk with all of our families and see how I can help make this process less overwhelming for you.
There are numerous questions that foster parents have and so many you may be afraid to ask . . . Do we have what it takes? Is our house big enough? Do we make enough money? Is it okay if we are renters rather than home owners? These are just a few. Please don’t let questions prevent you from taking the first step of inquiring. If you are being led to foster and want to talk with someone, please call me.
This is where I love being the first point of contact. I will answer your questions and pray with you. I will walk this journey with you. I’ll help you understand the training process. I’ll help relieve the fear of one of the most emotional questions about fostering—How can we become close to a child and then lose him or her? The time that you have with these children—whether it be a few days, a few months or a forever family—will need to be entrusted to God. Your role in fostering through faith is invaluable. You are providing safety, security, love, compassion and support for these children when they need it the most—regardless of the amount of time you provide. As we tangibly care for children in foster care, we also pray for their biological parents, pray for positive outcomes, pray for intervention and for reunification if possible. While this journey can be emotional, you will not be alone.
Encourage has an amazing team that supports you professionally and personally. We invest fully in our foster families and children. We strive to provide as much encouragement as possible. One of the ways we do this is by our Foster It Forward program—a new mentorship support system that allows connection and reassurance for our new families.
You will be partnered with a seasoned foster family that will serve as a mentor for you to reach out to for prayer and guidance. Mentors will share their experiences and coping strategies. They will help you feel better equipped to handle the unique challenges that come with fostering children. This is a remarkable way for foster parents to lean on each other through the good times, and yes, the trying times too. It’s our hope that this program will lead to increased stability for foster parents and children.
The need for foster parents is increasing. With 2019 quickly approaching, we ask that if you have considered foster care, please consider contacting me. I will be happy to talk with you, meet with you and pray with you. Our next foster parent pre-service training takes place in February at Crossroads Community Church in Mansfield, Ohio. It’s a great time to make that first step.
Faith is an integral part of our culture at Encourage. Sometimes the faith component in fostering starts as a gentle nudge. A knock at your heart’s door that God desires to take you down a new path of knowing and serving Him. Other times faith shows up as reminder of God’s call to the church to care for those who are alone and in need. Always the faith component in fostering entails loving deeply through the hard times. Embracing a child with all of his or her trauma and beauty, joy and fear, is costly. There will be moments of on-your-knees prayer, sacrifice, surrender, and the daily need to lean fully on your Savior.
God may have different plans than your own. Faith gives you the ability to trust that He knows exactly what you need. Here is one woman’s story of becoming a foster and adoptive parent.
“It’s really tempting to just do minimal care and not let yourself become attached because it seems like it would be less painful when they leave,” said Becca, a single woman who fostered two boys in Austin, Texas. “I look at Scripture and see that’s not how Jesus has loved us. I am called to lay down my life for these guys, no matter how long they’re in my home.”
If you’re feeling a small (or perhaps giant-sized) knock at your heart’s door to learn more about fostering, we would love to connect with you. Reach out to Heather Huebner, Foster Care Recruitment & Engagement Specialist at email@example.com or 330.462.1118 for an introductory conversation.
At Encourage, we are here to walk alongside individuals, couples and families as they prepare to open their home to a foster child or sibling group. Everyone has foster care questions. This is a big decision and there are many questions to ponder and concerns to uncover.
Sometimes one spouse is ready to sign up to be a foster parent before the other. Here are some great tips from a foster parent/foster home licensing specialist to consider as you pray and discuss this issue with your husband or wife. As you learn about his or her uncertainties, you’ll have the opportunity to show love by listening and validating their feelings. These conversations will make your foster home stronger if and/or when you make that choice together.
Unless you’re a united front, the bottom line is your home will not be the best place for a child who has already experienced too much instability. Dragging someone else along into this decision might seem good for you, but it will not be best for a child.
What hesitations are holding you back from saying yes to fostering? We would love to help you process your foster care concerns and remove any barriers to taking the next step. For more information, please contact Heather Huebner, Foster Care Recruitment & Engagement Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.462.1118.
If you are ready to say yes to fostering, our next pre-service training begins in February. Learn more about the session today.
As the second Sunday in November approaches, we are reminded of a word used less frequently in our country today. Orphan Sunday is a special day set aside to raise awareness for children who face life without a biological parent to love and guide them. Our loving God cares deeply for these precious ones experiencing vulnerable circumstances. He has included and instructed us, His Church, to respond to their needs. Isaiah 1:17 (NIV) says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
A lesser known definition of the word orphan is one without protective affiliation. Encourage Foster Care children have lost one or both parents as a result of death, drugs/addiction, abusive behavior, and other difficult and painful situations. We know they are not orphans as this definition reads because God is in His great wisdom created a plan so the defenseless would not be without protection. They are not alone because they have us.
There are 47 foster parents at Encourage who have said yes to opening their hearts and homes to one or more foster children. They have completed required training and prepared welcoming spaces to best care for these young lives. We are wholeheartedly grateful for their service and are committed to providing a strong support system to help them be successful.
Not everyone is called to become a foster parent, but we are all called to defend those without protection. James 1:27 (NLT) says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” Here are five opportunities for you to prayerfully consider:
Become wrap-around supports
Practical assistance from the local church community can be extremely helpful (and encouraging!) to foster and adoptive families. Consider household chores and yard work, shopping or babysitting so mom and dad can go out on a date. Transport a child to weekly appointments or drop off a home-cooked meal.
Encourage’s A Friend in Fostering mentorship program is looking for enthusiastic, dedicated, caring adults to provide our youth with support through life transitions and to help instill independence, confidence and everyday life skills.
Use those skills
God has gifted each one of us with unique talents and abilities. From haircuts to orthodontics to car repair, you can use your skills to give a gift of love to a foster child, home or adoptive family.
Donate your birthday
Rather than gifts, ask your family and friends to support vulnerable kids through an established and accredited foster care organization. Gifts to Encourage Foster Care (through our parent organization Christian Children’s Home of Ohio) provide critical services that meet the unique needs of children in foster care.
Share this post
Orphan Sunday acknowledges children in need around the world. There are 20,000 children in foster care in Ohio alone. Use your social media platform to advocate on their behalf. Share this post and why it matters to you personally.
Let’s utilize November 11, 2018 as an opportunity to stand up for children in foster care. Use your voice in person or through digital outreach. Consider giving your time or financial resources to ensure that these children are protected.
Adapted from a resource on the CAFO website.
At Encourage Foster Care & Adoption we are here to support the children who have been removed from their families due to substance abuse, domestic violence and other unsafe circumstances. Intervention is often necessary for their wellbeing, and it makes our hearts full to see these vulnerable children acclimate well and begin healing with foster families.
It’s also heartwarming to hear of prevention programs for adult parents who are struggling but desire to make lasting changes to keep their families together. Here’s a news story of a pilot program in Ohio that is coming alongside biological families with strong support systems.
Foster families and their unique joys and struggles are often tucked away from mainstream media so we are excited to see this important subject come to the big screen. “Instant Family,” starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, will be in theaters Friday, November 16. Here’s the trailer:
Note: We have not pre-screened the film but prayerfully anticipate how God will use it to encourage discussion about the needs of foster children and prompt individuals to explore the possibility of becoming foster parents.
Will you please pray with us?