Facebook Live Q&A

Yes, I’ve thought about fostering, BUT I have so many questions and I just don’t know where to begin.

Our Encourage team would love the opportunity to answer your questions. There’s no question too big or too small. How has the pandemic affected foster care? What training do I need? Do I have to be married? What if I don’t own my own home? What are the ages of the children? What are visits with bio-families like? Where do the referrals come from? What sets Encourage Foster Care apart from other agencies?

We have answers to these questions and more! And we want you to share your challenges and concerns so we can better serve you.

Send us your questions today and make plans to tune in for our Facebook Live Q&A event on Monday, December 7 at 7pm. This will be a great opportunity to not only have your questions answered but to meet some of our staff that will be walking alongside you as you consider this journey in foster care.

Submit your questions via email to Heather at huebnerh@ccho.org or through Facebook Messenger. We look forward to answering those questions that may be laying on your heart and sharing the need for foster families throughout Northeast Ohio.

Mark your calendars for this fun and informative Facebook Live Q&A event with the Encourage Foster Care team: Monday, December 7 at 7pm.

We hope you’ll feel encouraged because, yes, you can foster too!

PS – if you are curious or looking for question prompts, check out the Encourage FAQ page.

On any given day in Ohio

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 huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118.

The greatest need

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.

Learn more about becoming a foster parent today.

Blessing of saying yes

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 Maria Reina, one of our foster care coordinators. She sees firsthand the joys and sorrows that our foster children and families experience.

I am so thankful for the heart and responsiveness of our Encourage foster families. Our agency recently received a referral request for a foster home for two young boys. The county truly wanted to keep the brothers together. One of our families without question took this placement. They did not doubt it for a minute. I was on call that day and had the privilege of placing these siblings together with this family. I hope they know what a blessing they are to these young kids.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” -Romans 10:17

Encourage foster families are a blessing to children and teens. Regardless of the length of their time together, they truly have a lasting impact. Learn more about what it takes to be a successful foster parent. The need for foster parents is great. To inquire, 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.

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.

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.

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.

Life Is Short – Buy The Orange Pants

This blog post was originally published in January 2016. The truth of it remains the same so we are sharing it again to bring you encouragement for the journey.

My husband and I have had the privilege of providing foster care to fifteen children since 2010. We have three little boys right now who are six, five, and three. Last week one of our little boys told me he really wished he had some orange pants. Now, when he first came to our home, you could barely understand a word he said. So to hear him have such a specific want brings me a lot of joy. This kid absolutely loves to wear bow ties and dress up clothes to school. Almost every week he has a “dress up” day where he wears a shirt with a collar and a bow tie. His older brother says kids tease him sometimes for wearing ties to school, but he says he doesn’t care–he just likes his bow ties.

Last Thursday I had a free hour between appointments and I stopped at the outlet mall on a quest for orange pants. I knew it was a long shot, but I thought I’d check it out. Four stores later and I found a single pair of orange dress pants. They were squished in a clearance rack with last years’ leftovers. Between assorted tank tops and t-shirts from other seasons, there was one pair of orange pants. Exactly what I needed. The store manager told me that those pants have been waiting on the clearance rack for two years. Literally longer than this sweet little guy has lived in my home- these pants have been waiting. The perfect orange dress pants in a size six.

I have the honor of working with our new foster parents and I field a lot of phone calls from new inquiries. People who are maybe on the edge of deciding whether or not they should get involved with the foster care system. Everyone has heard horror stories and there are a million excuses as to why they shouldn’t get involved in a system that is viewed by so many as so broken.

Maybe we should wait until we are older.

Maybe we should wait until we have more money.

Maybe we should wait until we aren’t so busy.

Maybe I shouldn’t do this because I’m single.

Maybe we shouldn’t do this because it will be too hard to love them and let them go.

I often see a lot of fear and unrealistic expectations of what foster care is and will be like. People are afraid of the unknowns and the worst case scenarios so they limit their options to what they see are the “safest” choices. They are counseled by friends not to take the “hard” kids. Often the choice is little babies with no problems. Kids who haven’t been exposed to drugs, domestic violence, kids who aren’t in counseling, or attached to siblings, or need more time to recover… But ‘little babies with no problems’ don’t need foster care. It is the children who have seen the worst in life who need us. Children whose needs haven’t been met. Children who haven’t had safety and security in a warm and loving home. Children who can describe what needles look like and how to shoot up heroin. Children who have experienced violence and come to our homes with wounds on their bodies and their souls. That scares people.

As a result, there are so many children who sit waiting. Waiting for someone to be brave enough to care for them. To take a risk. To take the chance… outside their comfort zone. Maybe like wearing a pair of orange dress pants.

We had an adoption matching meeting recently for our three boys. An adoption matching meeting occurs when children who have been in foster care become available for adoption and the state is working towards locating an adoptive placement for the children. Unfortunately, for our children, there are no family members able to care for them at this time. During that meeting we talked about the supports my husband and I have as parents. I explained we have some wonderful friends who really get it- my social work friends who understand why we chose foster care and why we chose this life. They love us and will support us and our children.

My husband and I haven’t chosen an easy road, but as for our children? They had absolutely no choice in the matter. None of these children do. They wind up in the system through no fault of their own and rely on social workers, foster parents, and counselors to help them pick up the pieces of their lives. They didn’t choose this life.

I’m so glad that I didn’t let our fears or excuses get in the way of God’s direction for our lives.

There’s a wonderful quote from Joseph Campbell that I have hanging in my office. It reads: “We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” I find this to be very true in the world of foster care. I often tell new foster parents that they will experience frustration and heartache, and the feeling of ‘not knowing’ what will happen with the children in your home will really wear you down! But when you see the recovery that a child can make when they feel safe and secure, when you see the light begin to shine in their eyes, and the fear begin to dissipate, it is all worth it. They didn’t choose this, but we can choose to be with them through it. The world tells us our lives should be easy. But I absolutely believe that our faith requires more of us.

I’m so glad we chose this life.

I’m so glad that when the social worker called that we said yes.

I’m so glad that we gave a home to a little boy, who can now give a home to these crazy orange pants.

I’m so glad that I am able to empower other prospective foster parents to do this too. You can do this, you are capable and you are stronger than you think!

Life is short. You should definitely buy the orange pants.