The goal for most youth in foster care is reunification with their biological families. While apart from each other, bio parents focus on their own healing work while our staff and foster parents provide safety and therapeutic care to the kids. It’s complicated work helping kids process confusing emotions and trauma as well as helping them navigate relationships and family visitation.
One of the preteen girls in our program recently demonstrated huge progress and a kind heart. “When someone receiving treatment can see outside of themselves to want to help others—that is a significant marker in their treatment,” said Shawn Pedani, director of Encourage.
Here is Veronica’s* story.
Veronica is very smart, caring and sweet. She was welcomed into care by an Encourage foster family last summer. The goal for her and her siblings is reunification, but their bio parents are struggling a lot, especially with visits. Sometimes they don’t show up, sometimes they do, but then don’t behave like they’re supposed to. When this happens, Veronica gets understandably upset.
However, she recently came up with an idea. Being very artistic and crafty, Veronica has been working on a project to identify and recognize her emotions and better cope with her anger. She has been representing her daily emotions with emojis through construction paper art. This creative expression helps her keep busy and forget about her anger, which also helps her manage anxiety.
Veronica asked her foster care coordinator to show her art project to other kids so they could try it too and be comforted. “I am so proud of her,” said Maria Reina, foster care coordinator at Encourage. “It’s amazing that a child can come up with an idea like this by herself and she is so kind to share with others in order to help them.”
Learning how to manage emotions and behaviors is challenging for youth from hard places. Our team and foster parents come alongside our kids to teach and model this important work. When we see children implement strategies and experience success, we are overjoyed! These life skills are so beneficial to their healing and overall well-being.
If your family tries Veronica’s emoji art project, would you kindly let us know? We’d love to share your story with her so she can be even more encouraged. Send us a note at email@example.com.
*Name changed for privacy.
On any given day in Ohio, nearly 16,000 children are being cared for away from their parents. They have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect. Foster parents provide much-needed safety and support for these hurting kids. Your home could be exactly what they need.
Cuyahoga County – 3,500+
Stark County – 890+
Summit County – 875+
Wayne County – 135+
Children and teens who have experienced trauma often display their hurt, pain and fear through challenging behaviors. You can help them find their way through all the pain to find healing and a new way to manage all they have experienced. Encourage provides supports from a trauma-informed approach. Training is provided in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).
Making the decision to foster is big. It comes with many questions and our staff is here to talk with you about what it would look like to welcome a child or sibling group into your home. The decision is also brave and bold as you say yes to fostering through faith and loving kids in need.
Our next foster parent prep courses begin September 1. There’s still time to join the online class–a mix of live trainings through Zoom and self-paced modules. Contact Heather Huebner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.462.1118.
This has been a year of unknowns and uncertainties. We are incredibly grateful for the safety and stability Encourage foster families provide the youth in their care. Our team is here to help you navigate this season and provide quality tools and resources to keep you on track.
While we wait for in person First Friday foster parent trainings to return, Encourage is now offering 2 Hour Tuesday online trainings through Zoom. Open to any licensed foster parent, participants will earn two hours of face-to-face training credits. No sign up is required. Join us as your schedule allows.
In August, we’ll take a look at helping children in times of crisis through Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Learn more about rupture and repair and how to help kids heal from big and small traumas in the midst of a pandemic.
2 Hour Tuesday: The Power of Repair
August 18, 6-8pm
Join the Zoom training.
Enjoy this timely session from the comfort of your home. For more information, contact Whitney Beougher, LSW, foster care assessor and trainer at email@example.com.
We recently shared a news article on the Encourage Facebook page about youth in foster care being housed at the Cuyahoga County Department of Job and Family Services. We asked Encourage Intake Coordinator Angel Sigler to share more about the critical need and how we can respond.
I hear voices crying out about the need for more foster parents in our communities. Voices saying that there are not enough homes for children in need of safety. On one level this is true, but there’s a greater need in this situation. The bigger challenge is that there are not enough foster homes with the ability to provide care for children with high-level needs—especially if that child with behavioral needs is a teenager. Not many families are willing or trained to welcome them and address their unique needs. Those are the children living in the DJFS buildings.
Here’s the greatest need: foster parents who are willing and trained to take in children with high-level behavioral issues caused by trauma and help them find their way through all the pain to find healing and a new way to manage all they have experienced.
The emotional and behavior challenges of a traumatized child do not instantly go away once you love them and give them a safe environment. It is a long process, but the end is so worth it.
There are boys and girls completing their individualized therapy programs at residential treatment centers, including CCHO, waiting for a place to go. These hurting youth came into residential care because their compounding losses made them unable to adapt and function well in a foster family home. They’ve spent an average of six to nine months working their programs, participating in therapy, and now they are ready to try their new skills in a family setting. With few foster families willing or able to help them acclimate back into a family unit and the greater community, these children wait in limbo and begin to lose hope that a family will ever want them.
My heart hurts for these precious kids.
We need families to say yes to opening their hearts and homes to teenagers even if those teens are angry, struggling with drug issues, or facing mental-health concerns. If we don’t help these youth find their way out of the pain—which often looks like anger and self-medication—they will become adults with no support system, no healing, and ultimately no hope. That is heartbreaking. And the cycle often repeats with their children.
The system is only as broken as you and I allow it to be. Is reform needed? Sure. Do we want children living in the DJFS building? Certainly not. But what choice does the county have until more families respond?
Here’s my invitation. Lean in to fully hear my heart.
Will you step up and fight alongside and for these kids? Not like cheerleaders on the sidelines, but in the field getting dirty with them? They really need you—stable, caring adults—to help them find themselves in the midst of the chaos.
Patience, flexibility and a willingness to learn TBRI skills. When foster parents implement this posture and these tools and welcome kids with high-level behavioral needs into their homes, that’s when we’ll see the miracles begin to happen. Our promise at Encourage: we commit to coming with you every step of the journey—training, coaching, empowering and celebrating.
Today’s blog post comes from Jessie Berry, clinical supervisor at Encourage. She shares a powerful story of fostering through faith. See how God is at work in a young man’s life as well as his bio family because of a loving, praying foster family.
As I have stepped into my new role as clinical supervisor, I have had the opportunity to meet most of our Encourage foster parents. Each foster family has their own unique strengths which they use daily to care for children in their healing journey.
I have gotten to work closely with the Kirkbrides, one of our newer foster families. John and Cheryl had a young man placed with them not long after they were licensed. Bobby* arrived the week before everything shut down due to COVID-19.
Once placed with the Kirkbrides, Bobby adjusted well despite the pandemic and all the changes associated with it. The couple supported him during the transition and immediately began to prioritize both his faith journey and his relationship with his biological family.
Bobby’s faith journey began before being placed in the Kirkbride’s home. While living in his hometown, a bus would come around the neighborhood each week and take the children to a program at the local church. Bobby’s foster mother, Cheryl, reports that the seed of his faith and understanding of who Jesus is definitely started there.
Due to the Kirkbride’s church not holding in-person services during the crisis, Bobby began watching church with them online on Sunday mornings. He would ask them many questions and was very interested in learning how the church service worked. Bobby also enjoyed memorizing Bible verses, and Cheryl would hear him proudly reciting them to his mom during their phone calls. Bobby’s bio mother was very receptive to this and encouraged him to do so. During the past few months, he has read through the Old Testament with his foster parents and is looking forward to reading the New Testament next.
Bobby informed John and Cheryl that he was very interested in being baptized. He recently met with the children’s minister and is preparing for his baptism. His foster parents have assisted him in completing a baptism study. Bobby shared a desire to have his biological parents attend the baptism, and the Kirkbrides have fully supported this. They plan on scheduling his baptism once his parents are allowed to attend/have out-of-agency visits.
The Kirkbrides expressed that Bobby has also developed an interest in listening to Christian music, his favorite band being MercyMe. Cheryl has seen Bobby dancing to “Happy Dance,” “Shake,” and “Grace Got You.” One day he listened to “Grace Got You” over 25 times while playing with Legos. She’s also heard him belting “Waymaker” while in the shower, and he loves wearing the “Waymaker” shirt his foster parents ordered for him. The Kirkbrides feel music has helped Bobby heal and connect deeper to his faith.
John and Cheryl pray for and with Bobby each night, requesting that God give him faith like David. Encourage is very thankful for all the Kirkbrides do, selflessly taking on a foster placement during the COVID-19 pandemic and working hard to ensure that Bobby sees his worth in Christ.
*Name changed for privacy.
Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’re sharing “Blessings Found in Fostering.” We’ve asked Encourage families and staff to tell us what they’re learning and the God moments they’ve seen along the way. Today’s story of blessing comes from our Clinical Supervisor Jessie Berry, MSSA, LISW-S. Jessie provides therapeutic support as a staff member and she is also a foster mom with her local foster care agency.
The biggest joy my husband and I have experienced as foster parents has been getting the opportunity to show the kiddos their worth in Christ. When we got placement of our two little boys, they had never been introduced to the Lord. This seems to often be the case with our foster youth. One of the greatest responsibilities we have faced as foster parents has been raising them in a Godly household, teaching them the power of prayer, and fostering their relationship with the Lord.
While grief and anxiety are emotions foster parents frequently experience as reunification nears, the knowledge that Jesus is now in their hearts, whether they are at your house or in their biological home, gives a much needed sense of peace and comfort. What could be more powerful and reassuring than that?
Encourage families are fostering through faith. They are responding to a ministry that God has called them to. Their heart is for each child to experience their worth in Christ. For more information about fostering with Encourage, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.462.1118.
View more stories of blessings from Encourage staff and foster families.
Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’re sharing “Blessings Found in Fostering.” We’ve asked Encourage families and staff to tell us what they’re learning and the God moments they’ve seen along the way. Today’s story of blessing comes from our Home Study Supervisor Emily Engman, LSW. Emily sees the faithfulness and compassion of our foster families. Even in the midst of uncertainty, they have willingly changed their plans and followed Jesus.
During the course of COVID-19, we have seen many Encourage foster families step it up to take care of children in need in our communities! One of our families opened their home to care for a sibling of one of their current foster children. Another one of our families opened their home to take care of 7-year-old and 9-year-old sisters who were no longer able to stay with their current foster family.
Neither of these families had planned on having additional children in their home a few months ago, but, when the need was there, they showed up. We are so grateful for our foster families and all the work they do to help foster children.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9, ESV
We have a heart for keeping siblings together and we are so grateful for our foster families who help make this possible. Learn more about our ministry focus and connect with Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist, at email@example.com or 330.462.1118 with any questions.
Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’re sharing “Blessings Found in Fostering.” We’ve asked Encourage families and staff to tell us what they’re learning and the God moments they’ve seen along the way. Today’s story of blessing comes from Whitney Beougher, LSW, Foster Care Assessor and Trainer. Whitney welcomes and trains our newest foster parents and gets to know their heart for children in need.
I have recently had two women in our Encourage Foster Parent Prep Courses that were once in the foster system and adopted into supportive homes. They offered such great insight and questions during the training classes. Both women shared their experiences and it really helped the other parents understand the need and perspective of youth in foster care.
They have both created successful lives and have biological children. They both expressed the heart to bring foster children into their families to help them heal and give back. These women, soon-to-be foster moms, are excited to provide a stable home for children, even if the foster children are able to be reunified with their families.
Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’re sharing “Blessings Found in Fostering.” We’ve asked Encourage families and staff to tell us what they’re learning and the God moments they’ve seen along the way. Today’s story of blessing comes from Logan Truax, one of our foster care coordinators. She sees firsthand the relationships that develop between our foster and biological families.
My positive experience involves the Hawks family — one of our Encourage foster families. I’ve seen an awesome blessing because of the positive relationship that foster mom Jen has with her foster son’s biological mother. When she found out she was pregnant and her county was taking custody, this bio mom felt comfortable saying she wanted the Hawks to care for this baby too. Now the siblings can be together while they are in foster care and their biological mom works on her own plan. I am so grateful for the kindness of the Hawks family and their heart for bio families.
At Encourage Foster Care, our purpose is to help people experience their worth in Christ. This certainly includes the biological families of youth in foster care. When possible, our foster families build a relationship with birth moms and dads. We pray for their healing and growth. We ask God to provide opportunities to show His grace. Connecting with birth parents can be the unexpected story God writes.
Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’re sharing “Blessings Found in Fostering.” We’ve asked Encourage families and staff to tell us what they’re learning and the God moments they’ve seen along the way. Today’s story of blessing comes from Courtney McConahay, one of our foster care coordinators. Courtney cheers on our foster youth wherever they are in the journey.
I just have to brag on one of our foster teen boys. I was concerned about him at first, for building up his mental health and overcoming personality conflicts. He has been working with his foster dad on painting jobs, making money and saving up with a plan. He bought himself a lawn mower to mow lawns and a bike! He still owes $100 toward his bike and has a few upcoming jobs that will pay it off. This young man is so proud of himself. He was also talkative and in a great mood when we connected last week. He even took initiative to show me some new kittens in their family. I could see his countenance lifted, and I’m so proud of him for making progress! Way to go!
One of Encourage’s greatest needs is foster homes for teenage foster children. Our heart is for each teen to have someone cheering at their side for progress moments like this one and for achieving major milestones. If you would like to talk with one of our staff members about what it would like to welcome a teen into your home, Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist, would be honored to process this decision with you. Reach out today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.462.1118.