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.

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.

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

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).

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

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.

Sensory needs

At Encourage, we invest fully in our families and children, and we are committed to supporting our foster parents throughout their entire journey. One way that we come alongside our families is helping them identify tools and resources to best address the needs of the kids in their care. We currently have several kiddos with sensory challenges, and the following support items (all under $80 each) could be very helpful in their home. Would you be willing to help meet one or more needs?

Weighted blankets (we could use at least three in twin size)
Weighted blankets have been known to help individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, autism and other health conditions feel calmer and sleep better. They are usually made with 10 percent of the individual’s body weight to provide firm but gentle deep pressure. Weighted blanket therapy is similar to that of swaddling an infant. Just as the firm, snug wrapping helps an infant relax and drift off to sleep, the weighted blanket helps a child with a similar effect.

Please purchase this weighted blanket (or similar).

Sensory body socks (we could use three small and medium sizes)
Similar to a weighted blanket, a child will benefit from feeling calm and relaxed by the deep pressure input of the body sock. It’s a great quiet suit when a child needs help managing emotions and sleep. At other times a body sock is useful for developing motor skills.

Please purchase this sensory body sock (or similar).

Therapy swing (we could use at least three)
The swinging motion helps teach a child’s brain and body to work together. This sensory integration improves coordination, balance, body awareness and concentration. The swaddling feature gives children a sense of protection and blocks out unnecessary sensory input. Therapy swings benefit children who have Sensory Processing Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, or those on the autism spectrum.

Please purchase this therapy swing (or similar).

Perhaps you are not in a season where fostering fits but you are in a season where you could be a blessing to a foster family. If you would like to encourage one of our families by purchasing an item or two from this list, we would be so grateful. Please have your item(s) shipped directly to the Encourage office at 637 College Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. Be sure to let Rhonda Greer, LSW, foster care assessment leader, (greerr@ccho.org) know of your plans in advance to prevent duplications of items purchased.

We will update this blog post when the needs are met. Thank you for giving generously!

Ministry focus

We receive many inquiries from families who are looking to adopt an infant or a young child. We are so thankful that you are considering this option to give children a forever family and we will gladly provide you a list of agencies that would be able to help you on your journey.

Our ministry focus at Encourage is fostering and foster to adopt. If you are looking to foster or foster to adopt and possibly take sibling groups, teens or children with medical needs than our agency would be a wonderful fit for you. These youth are our greatest priority.

We currently serve the counties of Ashland, Crawford, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, Harrison, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne. And every month, our agency receives dozens of requests for foster homes for children from these counties.

We especially need homes for children over the age of five, brothers and sisters, and children who have experienced sexual abuse. Learn more about these children in foster care and consider how your home might provide safety and stability for a hurting child or teen when they need it most.

It is an exciting yet overwhelming step to open your hearts and homes up to a child or sibling group that has experienced separation, loss and trauma in their lives. Our mission is to connect foster and adoptive families with strong support systems that will equip them with the physical, emotional and logistical help they need.

Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions. We would love to assist you in any way. Reach out to Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist, at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

Fostering teens

One of Encourage’s greatest needs is foster homes for teenage foster children.

Being a teenager is already hard enough.

Imagine not having support and stability at home while you navigate hormones, school, relationships and a host of other moments and decisions as graduation gets ever closer.

Imagine not having someone show you some of the things you took for granted like making mac and cheese, filling out a job application or learning how to drive.

Imagine not having someone see you and love you for you who are and help you reach your potential and chase your dreams.

Most children in foster care have not experienced what a real home is supposed to be like. The average foster child is not used to cooking with mom, eating at the dinner table, having a scheduled time to do homework, or even the basics like seeing parents. So you can give them a glimpse of what a home is supposed to be like. You can provide dinners at a table. You can offer up some time cooking in the kitchen. Just normal!

(Read the full article.)

Providing a home and supportive relationship to a teen will come with challenges, but here are 10 reasons to foster a teenager in foster care.

No one should have to go through major life moments without someone cheering at their side. You could be that someone. Your home could be the first home that helps a teen experience his or her worth in Christ.

If you would like to talk with one of our staff members about what it would like to welcome a teen into your home, please contact us today. Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist, would be honored to process this decision with you. Reach out today at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.