Growing faith in a pandemic

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.

Blessing of relationship

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.

View more stories of blessings in foster care.

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.

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.

The heart of prevention

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.