LP Hope SPRING 2018
IN FOSTER CARE
LEGACY of Foster Care
By Rod Marshall, President/ CEO y parents were never officially licensed as foster parents, but that did not stop them from taking in children from hard places. My parents were both endowed with the spiritual gift of hospitality, frequently opening up our home to people who were distant relatives or friends. Some would stay with us only occasionally, while others stayed for weeks. When I was a preschooler, my mother ran a home-based day care. Angela, Donnie, 2
Amber, Patricia, and David were my playmates and were like siblings to me. Each of them had their story. Patricia’s was perhaps most poignant. Patricia, her mother, and her older sister were involved in a very serious automobile accident. Both her mother and sister were killed, and Patricia, who was 4 years old, the sole survivor, was in a full body cast. Patricia spent all day reclined on our couch. The rest of us played outside almost all day, but Patricia could not join us. My mom moved the coffee table close to the couch, so that she could roll off of the couch onto the table and then roll back onto the couch, since it was the only physical exercise she could do. We were especially proud of that coffee table. My family was very working-class. My dad had just begun his own business, after serving twenty years in the Air Force. We did not have many nice things in our small and modest house. Before I was born, my father was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. While there, he bought some mahogany furniture, including this coffee table. It was a live-edge, unusually shaped, mahogany table. When Patricia rolled off the couch onto the coffee table, the plaster cast left scuffs and white streaks on it. Mom said she could not bring herself to be concerned about the table when Patricia seemed to enjoy getting some exercise. Years later, we had the table refinished, and it wound up being even prettier than we realized. Though mom was not a foster parent to Patricia (not in the strictest sense), she taught me the importance of letting things go to meet the needs of
EA R THLY TREASURE S WILL N OT LAST F ORE VER.
Eternal ones will. children from hard places. Earthly treasures will not last forever. Eternal ones will. When I was in high school, a first cousin I had never met came by our house one Saturday morning. He asked if his 9-year-old daughter could spend the day with us while he ran some errands. He did not come back as a primary source of parental influence in his daughter’s life for over five years. For those five years, my second cousin was accepted into our family and became my little sister. I do not ever recall hearing my mother or father ever speaking harshly of my cousin who abandoned his daughter into the care of his uncle and aunt. From that experience, I have learned to be very careful in passing judgment on the parents of children who wind up in someone else’s care. Our ABCH foster parents are amazing people. They often remind me of my parents, exchanging earthly treasures for eternal treasures. They suspend judgment in order to be able to love children from hard places without reservation. They are missionaries in the truest sense of the word. They live out and preach the gospel in action and word every day to “the least of these.” What an honor it is to serve alongside these minsters of the gospel! Finding Hope in Foster Care
A PATHWAYS TESTIMONY:
GR ACE of God
By Nicole Walker, Communications & Design Specialist t a conference a few years ago, Whitney Reidinger was posed with the question, “If you asked God to turn up the volume in your life, what would you hear?” Quickly scribbling it down, she decided to revisit that question once she had a moment to truly meditate and bring this question to God. About a week later, Whitney opened up her notebook and started sifting through the materials. There she saw the big question again on the page. “Before I asked myself that question, or asked God that question, I determined that the answer was ‘yes,’ to whatever He said.” God answered with two words—foster care. Though not an answer she expected, it wasn’t something that was completely foreign to her, either. “I remember back in 2000, I read an article about the need for foster 4
families,” Whitney said. “Josh and I had only been married for six months at the time, but looking back on it, I know God was pricking my heart and laying the groundwork.” Over the years, Josh and Whitney have been involved in orphan and foster care in some way or another, especially by sponsoring children through Compassion International and Children’s HopeChest. “I realized that God was wanting us to go deeper and be more committed to the cause of the orphan.” Whitney began to internalize those two words, foster care, over the following months. She didn’t share this with anyone, since she wanted to pray this through. “It’s not just a calling on my life—it’s a calling for my husband, my children, my neighborhood, my church, my extended family, and so on,” Whitney said.
Whitney and Josh Reidinger, with their two daughters, Camille and Ellen After feeling confirmation to move forward in this journey, Whitney sat with Josh and shared her heart and what she believed God was calling them to do. Though it wasn’t what he was expecting to hear, Josh committed with Whitney to follow the call to foster care.
ANSWERING THE CALL The Reidingers then began the process of fostering with us. After months of training, background checks, and
home studies, they were finally approved to foster. They opened up their home to their first placement, Samantha.* Even though Whitney, Josh, and their two kids, Ellen and Camille, said “yes” to foster care, they had not fully realized the journey of fostering isn’t always easy. “You can never fully prepare for actually being a foster parent,” Whitney shared. “It’s hard to know what it’s like until you walk through it.” It turned out that Samantha had Finding Hope in Foster Care
a difficult time processing everything that was going on. She had many uncontrollable behaviors that stemmed from going through difficult circumstances, and that’s the only way she knew how to express her emotions. At the time, though, it was hard for Whitney and Josh to understand why she was acting this way, since they just started fostering. It was even more difficult for their oldest child, Ellen, because Samantha rejected Ellen. “Ellen has a very maternal side to her, and she loves children. She was so excited to help with fostering . . . and for Samantha to reject her on every level, it truly crushed Ellen’s spirit.” They initially started going to counseling through Pathways Professional Counseling, a sister ministry of ABCH, to help Samantha work through her past hurts. Pathways provides counseling to children in our care and ABCH foster families to help them walk through the journey of fostering at no cost to the family. Little did Whitney know that when she said “yes” to fostering, God wasn’t just planning on reaching the children coming into their home. “It wasn’t very long into fostering that God brought things to the surface, in me personally, that He needed to refine.” It was then that Whitney decided to yield to God and go to counseling for herself.
EXPERIENCING GRACE THROUGH COUNSELING After Samantha left their home, Whitney started seeing Emily, one of the counselors with Pathways, on an individual basis to work through the journey of fostering, and talk through things outside of foster care. “It really 6
I UNDER STOOD GRAC E, BUT EMILY GUIDED ME TO A fuller and
OF THE GO SPEL OF GRAC E IN MY LIFE. impacted my journey,” Whitney said. “Emily guided me to a better understanding of grace. That’s huge! I understood grace, but Emily guided me to a fuller and deeper experience of the gospel of grace in my life.” Not only did Emily help Whitney work through things personally, but other Pathways counselors worked with her family—including her children—to help them work through the good, the bad, and the ugly of foster care. “It was hard for my daughter, Ellen, when she felt so rejected by Samantha while she was in our care . . . counseling really helped Ellen to process that.”
CONNECTING THROUGH COUNSELING A few months later, the Reidingers opened their home to another child who came into foster care—Ben*, who has now been in their care for over a year. Like Samantha, Ben also came into their home with some uncontrollable behaviors, so Whitney and Josh went back to Pathways in hopes of connecting with Ben. Emily used play therapy, which helps healing to occur by connecting children
relationally with their caregivers, to help Ben build an attachment to Whitney and Josh. “Emily has helped us get into the mind of a child from a hard place . . . when Ben would flip his lid, you couldn’t reason with him in the moment, but Emily helped me understand why he responds this way, what’s going on in his mind, and how to help.” It is miraculous to see how God has used the resources at Pathways to help Ben and the Reidinger family. “Ben came into our home a completely different child than he is today,” shared Whitney. “Emily really helped us continue in the foster care journey, because she’s helped me truly learn to connect and have compassion for a child going through hard times. I’m not sure we would continue fostering if it weren’t for Pathways.” If there’s one word to describe the Reidinger family, it’s “committed.” When the journey of fostering was difficult for them, they continued to push through and did whatever it took to help connect with Ben and form an attachment with him. Even if they were dealing with difficult situations unrelated to fostering, they still utilized Pathways in order to create a better home for their family and for children coming into their care. “I’m so grateful for the resources Pathways provides through ABCH, because they are there for your family’s well-being, and for the child’s well-being. It’s worth having a peaceful home, and for our children and the children in our care to be in a better place, and ultimately to experience the grace of God.” *Names have been changed to protect identities.
You and your
church can help CHILDREN
& FAMILIES You can share stories just like the Reidinger’s with our 2018 complimentary Annual Offering/Church Promotional Materials, and partner with us to reach our goal of $2.8 million this year! Arriving in April, these materials help raise awareness about the needs of children and families we serve. Each p ackage includes: (1) professionally printed 11x17 poster (1) promotional DVD with two videos (25) colorful bulletin inserts
ALL of our partnering churches across Alabama will receive this “care” package. Offering envelopes are not included but can be requested for free, along with additional bulletin inserts and posters at alabamachild.org/ resources or by calling (888) 720-8805. Finding Hope in Foster Care
TOP: Charlotte Autrey, Laura Champion, and Melody Creasy dropping off journey bags
A Little Easier
BOTTOM : Items in the Journey Bag
By Nicole Walker, Communications & Design Specialist hen children enter foster care, they often have little to nothing. The few items they own are often carried in a trash bag. If it weren’t difficult enough going through hard times as a child, it’s even harder when you have nothing to call your own.
journey bags, as well as 287 boxes of diapers, to several agencies across Birmingham, including Jefferson County Department of Human Resources (DHR), Shelby County DHR, Bessemer DHR, Lifeline Ministries, and Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.
This is where Shades Mountain “About four years ago, we realized Baptist Church, located in there needed to be something Birmingham, decided to step more going on at our church in. For four years now, members with orphan care and foster care, of Shades Mountain have ral- so there’s a few of us that got lied together to provide “journey together to brainstorm,” shared bags,” which are backpacks and Melody, who helped come up with diaper bags for foster families the idea for the journey bag drive. and children coming into care. “We thought, what can we do, or To date, they’ve provided 2,831 is there something we can do? 8
The women’s minister at our church found an article about someone who had collected rolling suitcases for foster kids. It was from there that we came up with the idea for backpacks and diaper bags.”
it’s just one backpack at a time. That’s been really neat to see!”
SEEING GOD’S FAITHFULESS
The journey bag drive turned out to be a bigger success than Melody and the other members could have imagIt was then that Melody and a few ined. Even more, she hears several other ladies from the church constories of how God is using the bags. tacted Jefferson County DHR to see “One foster family at our church got if this was a need. “The lady on the a call from DHR about a baby that other line was so excited, and immeneeded to be placed,” Melody shared. diately said yes!” “When they showed up, the baby had STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE a poopy diaper right then, and this family had nothing to take care of In their first year, they originally asked members to create 500 back- it, since they weren’t expecting the child at that moment. They were propacks. They made luggage tags that vided with one of the journey bags, listed the age of each child and items and were able to change the dianeeded to go in the backpack, as well per immediately, and get some new as a Bible to go in each bag. The first clothes on her.” Sunday they announced the journey bag drive, the church really stepped Whether it’s one bag or thousands up to the plate, taking all 500 tags on of bags, Melody wants to encourthe first day alone. age churches that are interested in
“I went back to Jefferson County DHR and asked how many more children could use these bags, and she said there were 647 kids in foster care at the time,” Melody said. “We made an announcement the next Sunday that we added 147 more tags, and they were all picked up!”
orphan and foster care to help in any way possible. “It doesn’t just have to be bags, it can be anything,” Melody said. She has hope that God will use the bags they put together at Shades, and all the efforts that other churches make, to reach children going through these difficult situations.
Gathering journey bags has been a “I don’t know what will come from the great opportunity for the whole fam- bags we put together, but I know that every backpack has been prayed over, ily to get involved with missions. “We get lots of stories from families shar- that every child who receives them has been prayed for. No telling what ing how their kids can be involved in God is going to do with it, and do so caring for orphans or kids in foster much more than we could have ever care,” Melody said. “They can’t always imagined.” take their kids overseas on a mission trip, or even one here in the country, If you would like to learn more about helping but doing something like this had children and families in need, you can conbeen an impactful way for them to tact us at email@example.com, call (888) be part of missions. The kids help 720-8805, or visit alabamachild.org/13ways. deliver the bags to agencies, even if Finding Hope in Foster Care
Social Worker Elizabeth Williams with Lila Cowart, recently adopted by James and Joy Cowart
New P lace SAME MISSION By Kristen Jackson & Michelle Glassford labama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH) social worker, Elizabeth Williams, has been a tremendous blessing to our Dothan families for years. Beginning in 2017, she began serving children and families in the newest frontier of our foster care ministry, which has taken root in the Auburn-Opelika region! Elizabeth began her service with ABCH in Dothan four years ago. Before coming to us, it had been her prayer for several years that the Lord would lead her to a social work position within a Christian agency. Her local church had supported the Children’s Home in Troy, and, when she was a young adult, she and her husband completed their home study with now retired ABCH Senior Director of Social Services, Dr. 10 Lifeprints 10
Louise Green. This enabled them to become adoptive parents. “When the position became available in Dothan, I knew it was for me. It was the job I had asked the Lord for and with the organization that had helped me complete my family,” Elizabeth said. After helping Elizabeth start her family twenty years ago, Elizabeth’s role has come full-circle several times now, as she serves others in their family journeys through ABCH. “The families I have met so far have been the most rewarding part of beginning this program (in AuburnOpelika). They are all so interested in serving the Lord and making sure they follow His plan for their lives and
for the lives of the children and birth families they will encounter in this process,” Elizabeth said. President/CEO of ABCH Rod Marshall shares of this new work, “Elizabeth is a very hard worker, and I am excited to see what God will be doing through her efforts in the Auburn-Opelika area. Her passion for foster care is infectious, and her desire to serve children from hard places is deep.” By the end of 2017, four families were licensed in the Auburn-Opelika area, and 3 children had been placed. So far, 2018 has started with great interest, as 11 families have begun foster parent training classes! Elizabeth shares how encouraging it has been to see families in the Auburn-Opelika area stepping up to serve as the hands and feet of Christ as they care for His children. There is a great need in this part of the state for foster homes, and we are grateful for the doors the Lord has opened to begin serving there!
I HAVE BEE N BLOWN AWAY BY THE faithfulness OF C HURC HE S A ND IND IVIDUA LS . . . TO MEE T THE NEEDS . . . F OR KIDS IN F O STER CA RE. Baptist, the churches of Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association, and Church of the Highlands Auburn.
Many local churches, the surrounding community, families, and ABCH staff members like Elizabeth continually uphold our ministry in prayer and service and have helped us reach this new growth in care. We’ve received a substantial amount of financial support from donors and nearly 15 churches to launch this new program in East Alabama.
Development officer for Southeast Alabama Griffin Gulledge has been working hard in this area of the state and is excited about the growth ahead. He says, “From the first meeting with churches in Lee County about ABCH’s vision for foster care, I have been so impressed by the level of passion and willingness to help children in need. I have been blown away, time and again, by the faithfulness of churches and individuals who have risen to meet the needs for the 150 kids in foster care. We are praying for more of this kind of support to come!”
In addition, First Baptist Church Opelika has graciously opened their doors for us to house our office by their new children’s space. Other churches have also been key partners in seeing this new ministry take shape: Providence Baptist, Lakeview Baptist, Parkway Baptist, FarmVille
As we continue to recruit, train, and license more homes, we are prayerful and hopeful to see God grow and lead more hearts to him as we point children in the Auburn-Opelika area to the source of true life and hope, Jesus Christ. Finding Hope in Foster Care 11 11
THE ROAD TO HOME:
His Ways are Not Our Ways By Bobbi Olson, Foster Care Social Worker, Montgomery his story was written by Bobbi Olson, Social Worker at our Montgomery campus. It is our hope that this first-hand experience would encourage you, and give you an inside look at what God does even in the small moments, every day at ABCH. “For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told (Habakkuk 1:5b NIV).” This verse perfectly sums up the life of some precious little ones who transitioned from our care after several years of being in foster care, separated from siblings. When they came into care, they were scared, uncertain, and in need of hope. Isn’t that what we all need and crave? As believers, we find that Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, gives us that hope and certainty. Foster care, although it can be painful for all involved, is also an amazing, beautiful mess. It is engulfed in hurt and loss, 12 Lifeprints
but also restoration and redemption, especially when children gain stability and permanence. It is picturesque of the Gospel. For these precious children, Jaxon* and Luke,* mitigating circumstances prevented them from being reunified with their family, resulting in their extended stay in foster care. Month after month, even when it seemed all hope was lost, these precious ones longed to go home to their family, or to even find a place to call home. As adults, we sometimes struggle to stop and smell the roses, as deadlines, details, and responsibilities cover all of our agendas day in and day out. Yet, scripture calls us to have childlike faith: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3 NIV).” Despite all their heartache and struggles, resulting in them being placed
in foster care, over the last couple of years, Jaxon and Luke learned something many struggle to grasp —they learned what it is to have the faith of a child. At a recent family visit, the oldest was so excited as he exclaimed, “I just know I’ll be home for Christmas this year!” Our hearts were broken for him, as it seemed that it would not be so. But we know that God is close to the brokenhearted, and He can accomplish anything within His will to bring honor and glory to His name. Through many amazing efforts and the dedication of the children’s previous and current foster families, combined with the faith of a mustard seed and time, effort, and prayer, God worked in His own way and timing to provide these precious ones permanency with relatives a few days before Christmas! After years of being transient and unsettled, and after an extended time in foster care, their transition to permanence was their faith come to fruition, as they found a place to call home. Even more importantly, they learned that their heavenly father hears their cries, rewards their faith, and meets them in their time of need. Looking back, you could not have convinced anyone involved in this situation that this part of their story would end this way. Most, if not all, would have said it was not possible. But isn’t that the God we serve? He takes the impossible and makes it possible for His Glory. May we all be more childlike in the days ahead as we journey home! *Names and photos have been changed to protect identities.
FIVE ways TO HELP CHILDREN
IN FOSTER CARE
Pray for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the estimated 5,000 children in foster care in Alabama.
Become a foster or respite parent, and open up your home to a child in need.
Donate items from our online Needs List, such as diapers, unused clothes, school supplies, and pantry items.
Participate as an individual in our Hero Fund monthly giving program or as a church through our Annual Offering.
The map to the right shows all of the locations where we provide foster care. If you’re interested in helping out, please call (888) 720-8805 or visit alabamachild.org/ 13ways.
DECATUR OXFORD BIRMINGHAM AUBURNOPELIKA MONTGOMERY
Finding Hope in Foster Care 13
This year in Lifeprints, we’re continuing to feature Campus Spotlights to focus on one of our campuses, offering real time news and happenings in that area. In this issue’s Campus Spotlight, we are happy to share with you stories, updates, and other news from our Montgomery campus!
Lives Changed WE’VE SERVED WE CARED FOR
11 children children 61
IN FOSTERCAMPUS CARE SOCARE FAR THROUGH YEARCARE IN 2016 &THIS FOSTER
22 children children 2 children
IN FOSTER CARE ACCEPTED CHRIST IN 2016
RECENTLY PARTICIPATED IN A TROY UNIVERSITY CHEERLEADING EVENT
1 young man
IN OUR CARE JUST FINISHED HIS FIRST SEASON OF VARSITY BASKETBALL THIS SCHOOL YEAR
THE NUMBER OF HOMES LICENSED FOR FOSTER CARE HAS INCREASED BY
SINCE AUGUST 2017
Ways to Pray IN CAMPUS CARE WERE BAPTIZED THIS MONTH
This past fall, eight couples completed the fall training classes to start the process of becoming foster parents. Please pray for these families as they complete the home study and licensure process. Also, pray for families that are currently going through our spring training classes to become foster parents. Please pray for two children who recently transitioned for permanence with a biological relative. Also, pray for several school age children as they are working hard to overcome being behind in school. 14 Lifeprints
During Christmas break, volunteers from the Eastmont Baptist Church Children’s Ministry came to the office and cleaned our vehicles and wrapped Christmas presents. Jeremy Lynch, the Children’s Minister at Eastmont, is a vital supporter of our ministry here in the Montgomery Area.
Our oldest child in care played basketball for the first time this school year. In his first game of the season, his first basket was a three pointer. He recently commented that if he had not come into foster care he may never have picked-up a basketball and how grateful he was to be able to play. Montgomery excitedly welcomed our new social worker, Madeline Judy, on November 16, 2017. She recently relocated to Montgomery from Dothan after finishing her Master’s Degree in Troy earlier in 2017. She loves helping people and that is why she pursued a degree in social work. When asked why she came to work with the Children’s Homes, she said she felt welcome and at home, and it was a perfect fit. Madeline came to us with two years of experience as a Parental Involvement Specialist at Northview High School where she worked with parents and students with truancy issues.
Gift cards for our families are always helpful: Chick-fil-A, Chappy’s Deli, Zoe’s, Panera Bread, Jason’s Deli, Walmart, Walgreens, or CVS. You can also bless our families during the Easter season by donating a Bible for one of our children. If you’re interested in providing any items, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (334) 430-7569. Finding Hope in Foster Care 15
PERMIT #2036 BIRMINGHAM
NON-PROFIT US POSTAGE
You’re helping to provide happy memories that last a lifetime. With a gift of $180, you, your family, or your church group can sponsor a child this summer!
Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries P.O. Box 361767 Birmingham, AL 35236-1767
Camp of Champions happens at no charge to our families because of churches and individuals like YOU, who give so generously to our ministry. One of the ways people enjoy supporting Camp is by sponsoring a child to attend. By sponsoring a child for camp, you’re providing more than just a 3-day, 2-night experience at Shocco Springs.
Published on Mar 5, 2018