Change of plans

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 huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118 with any questions.

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.

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.

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.

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 Kandel 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 #19 in our series highlights another of Encourage’s families. 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). Theirs is an incredible story of answering God’s call for their lives and their family, of trusting during each step of the process, and of persevering through incredible tragedy to provide a safe haven for young children in need of a loving home.

Watch their video to learn more about their family’s story. We are thankful for a God Who orchestrates our lives and uses us along the way to make all things new.

We were honored to have the Kandels join us for our 50th anniversary benefit dinner. What a joy to celebrate their service!

You can find our 50th anniversary story series at ccho.org/stories. You’ll have the opportunity to share your own story as well.

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.

Perfect love casts out fear

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 #3 in our series highlights one of Encourage’s foster-to-adopt families. After months of praying over the beds in an empty room in her house, Gwyn welcomed a preschool boy and his baby sister into her home. The siblings had experienced unthinkable abuse and loss in their short lives; their two-year-old brother had just died as the result of suspicious injuries allegedly inflicted by their mother’s boyfriend.

With faith and courage, she believed that God had placed this little boy and his baby sister in her care for a reason, and she knew she had to love them in return because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

“I couldn’t guard my heart if I was going to love them and give them what they needed,” she says. “I had to make them feel safe…. So I just said, ‘Okay, God, I’m going to love them while I have them. While they’re in the circle of my arms, my family, my home, you are giving them to me to invest, to love, to nurture, to do my best with.’”

Gwyn played a significant role in the early days of fostering her children, helping them feel safe and loved as well as connecting them to trauma-informed resources. She continued to provide security and support while her older son processed trauma and emotions, and two years later Gwyn adopted them, making them a forever family.

Read their full story and watch their video to learn Gwyn’s prayer for her kids (now nine and four) and see how everyone is doing today. We are so grateful for our awesome God Who continues to make all things new.

You can find our 50th anniversary story series at ccho.org/stories. You’ll have the opportunity to share your own story as well.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Fostering through faith

Faith is an integral part of our culture at Encourage. Sometimes the faith component in fostering starts as a gentle nudge. A knock at your heart’s door that God desires to take you down a new path of knowing and serving Him. Other times faith shows up as reminder of God’s call to the church to care for those who are alone and in need. Always the faith component in fostering entails loving deeply through the hard times. Embracing a child with all of his or her trauma and beauty, joy and fear, is costly. There will be moments of on-your-knees prayer, sacrifice, surrender, and the daily need to lean fully on your Savior.

God may have different plans than your own. Faith gives you the ability to trust that He knows exactly what you need. Here is one woman’s story of becoming a foster and adoptive parent.

“It’s really tempting to just do minimal care and not let yourself become attached because it seems like it would be less painful when they leave,” said Becca, a single woman who fostered two boys in Austin, Texas. “I look at Scripture and see that’s not how Jesus has loved us. I am called to lay down my life for these guys, no matter how long they’re in my home.”

If you’re feeling a small (or perhaps giant-sized) knock at your heart’s door to learn more about fostering, we would love to connect with you. Reach out to Heather Huebner, Foster Care Recruitment & Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118 for an introductory conversation.

Fostering siblings

People often have a negative perception of children in foster care. Just because these children come from hard places and have experienced hard things, doesn’t mean they aren’t also great kids. When you hear about children in foster care, you often hear the worst stories about the abuse and neglect that they have endured. Encourage’s kids are resilient with many brilliant qualities.

You might learn in the news what they’ve experienced, but these articles don’t share that they also love the color orange, love to be read to, and play pretend. I like to remind new foster and adoptive parents that a child may be in foster care, but that is a situation they are experiencing, it doesn’t define who they are or who they will become.

Successful foster care stories are powerful because they help change the way we think about foster care children and the adults who said yes to loving them. This recent foster-to-adopt story about a sibling group gives us a glimpse into the vivid personalities and tender hearts of these amazing kids. It also gives us the opportunity to share about the specific needs of sibling groups.

The overwhelming majority of the referrals we receive here at Encourage are for brothers and sisters who need to be placed together. Many times being separated from your brother or sister is more traumatic than being separated from your mom or dad. Especially if you were the one responsible for taking care of your brother or sister.

Can you imagine your little brother or sister being pulled away from you to stay in another place with strangers you don’t know? There are many positives when taking care of siblings. Having your brother or sister in your foster home with you can reduce fear, worry and anxiety. It creates stability and security for children to remain with their brothers or sisters.

My husband and I have fostered six different sibling groups. The rewards of keeping them together have vastly outweighed the challenges. Siblings may require more laundry, more time to get ready for school, and more plates around the dinner table, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Keeping brothers and sisters together in foster care has been the most meaningful part of our lives.