Things I know about God

Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’ll be sharing a new series–”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. Enjoy this story from foster mom Sheila Wagler-Mills as she helps her foster children manage well during the health crisis.

With her foster children being home due to coronavirus, Encourage foster mom Sheila gave a journal to each of them with questions to spur their writing. One day Sheila left instructions to write “Five Things I Know About God.” Her preteen foster daughter responded to the task with seven noteworthy answers. (more…)

Give all of you

Throughout National Foster Care Month, we’ll be sharing a new series–”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. Enjoy these words of wisdom from foster mom Amber Buchwalter. She and her husband Phil became foster parents for the first time in 2019. We love having them in the Encourage family.

Fostering is caring for children as if they were your own and not worrying about the possibility of them ever leaving your home, yet still being prepared in the heart for that day to happen, should it. There is no cookie-cutter recipe. It’s not for those who want to do the minimal and still graduate. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

I’ve learned that basic needs and consistency take much effort. I am constantly troubleshooting how to get a toddler to sleep at night and trying to figure out how a five-year-old does or doesn’t think 🙂

I’ve learned so much about patience. Everything slows way down with kids—especially getting them ready to go outside with shoes, coats, gloves, etc. What a process! However, each day is new, and God has supplied me with the strength to get up and do it all again. God also allows me to give them grace when they have off days and aren’t the kind boys that we know they are. There are ups and downs, there are really fabulous days, and there are days when I crumble. I’ve learned to walk away and do breathing exercises that I acquired from my preschooler’s Head Start program. Sometimes I just pray and collect myself.

I’ve learned that we all are human. Little kids develop quickly up to age two, and then they start gaining independence and learning how to really test / push / try to do stuff on their own without permission. I’ve learned not to be a drill sergeant and yet not be too relaxed because then they don’t take me seriously.

I’ve learned from fostering that husbands and wives go through very separate issues with feelings of guilt, blaming each other, feeling stuck, not feeling like we are in the same boat, not knowing how to talk to each other about parenting choices, or even undercutting each other’s authority. Asking questions and talking to my husband about these concerns and how we can accomplish parenting together has really helped us unify our thoughts and direct our energies in the same direction. Whew!

I’ve learned that I love-love-love being a mom, and these kids need-need-need stability, consistency, love, physical touch, and yes, the basics. But if you only give basic needs, you hold back. You have to give all of you because they notice. The sleepless nights, the whining, the attitudes, the hardest days will always be worth it when I put my all into it. Seeing the boys’ progress and development change because we provided a stable atmosphere is mind blowing. I’ve seen connection points throughout this last year. I’ve gotten hugs I didn’t think would happen. I’ve even gotten a kiss on the forehead. I’ve received love letters from my older boy that are still taped to my door where he put them. I have seen so many improvements and developmental milestones in one year, and it’s so exciting! Especially the tenderhearted moment when I led my five-year-old in a prayer to accept Jesus in his life.

I’ve learned that fostering has drawn me closer to God. In my weakest moments, I’m asking / calling / begging for help. I have treasured the networking of experienced foster parents and staff from Encourage. They have been a lifeline when I need advice or have questions. Meeting new foster parents with kids has opened up my world of friends and taught me valuable lessons I will never forget.

I’ve learned that messy toy-filled rooms don’t bother me anymore. Picking up toys with the boys is a way of connecting with them. I look around our home and see how the boys have rerouted our routine and we are part of theirs. They have food, toys, clothes and little friends that we will get to see again after this virus ends. I see healthy children who have learned to sleep in. They know they are safe, loved, liked and accepted. They know that their feelings matter and that they can run to us whenever they want.

If you have a story or blessing to share, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

Now is the time

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 message comes from Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist. Heather finds blessing in each person who considers becoming a foster parent. And she loves talking through the possibilities with individuals and families. This role may not be for everyone, but there are opportunities for everyone to help children in need. Watch the video and learn more.

If you would like to get more involved in meeting the needs of youth in foster care, Heather would be honored to process this decision with you. Reach out today at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

Blessings found in fostering

President Ronald Reagan issued the first presidential proclamation establishing May as National Foster Care Month in 1988—that’s just one year before Encourage Foster Care officially began. While we serve foster families all year round, this is a great time for us to acknowledge and celebrate these special families and all that they do to help kids heal from neglect, abuse and trauma.

We are grateful that God has prompted our network of foster parents to open their hearts and homes to children and teens in this meaningful, supportive way.

“From our 30 years of caring for youth in foster care, we have seen how a safe and stable environment with caring adults is a critical piece to their healing and growth,” said Encourage Director Shawn Pedani, LISW-S. “We hope you know how much you are appreciated for the day-to-day support that you provide.”

Throughout this month, we’ll be sharing a new series–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.

View all of the foster care blessings stories.

Let’s use this month to connect and encourage one another as we are apart more often than we would like. If you have a story or blessing to share, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

Loving in the in between

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).

In story 45, we will share the foster-to-forever journey of the Bostick family. They are one of several Encourage families who will finalize adoptions this year. We are so happy that 12 children will now have forever families due to the work we do at Encourage.

This special adoption story began when April Bostick was a young teen. God softened her heart for youth in foster care through a friend at school. Her faith has played a significant role in loving her daughters well throughout the journey from fostering to adoption.

Less than three weeks after being licensed, April received a call about two young girls in need of a safe place to stay. She chose to immediately go and pick up the girls rather than postpone until the next day for a drop-off. April reflects that this was both the happiest time and the saddest time as she entered the halls of the county’s child and family service office.

(Read the full article.)

This post also includes an introduction by Foster Care Assessor Emily Engman, LSW to acknowledge the meaningful time of adoption for kids and parents.

You can find our entire 50th anniversary story series at ccho.org/fifty. We hope you’ll be encouraged.

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.