Our story started about 4 1/2 years ago. Bill McCoy, retired Pastor of The Church of Sherwood, and his wife, Kay, took in 4 kids, under a Permanent Guardianship. Ages 3, 5, 7, and 9. The. McCoy’s are like second parents to us. Robert, grew up in that church with his parents. The McCoy’s and The Cross’s are best friends, and started that church together with other families, years ago. Mr. McCoy married Robert and I. Their 3 children are dear friends to us.
I always say this picture is truly the beginning. It is my daughter Julianne’s 4th Birthday party. Brandon’s 4 biological siblings are there sitting with my 2 kiddos. The next day all of our lives would start to intertwine.
Bill sent out a mass text message stating, “Does anyone know someone who has an open Foster home? Our 4 kids, Bio parents had a baby, and it tested positive for drugs, so it immediately went into DHS custody.”
At that time, we didn’t know gender, or health of the baby. When I tell people this, I know they think I am crazy. When I got that message, I immediately felt like this baby is going to be mine. I called Robert and asked him, what should we do. He did not hesitate. He said, call DHS and find out what we have to do to be foster parents, and go from there.
The case worker, asked me if I had any relationship to the child, or guardians of the siblings. We do not. She said, you can’t just pick a baby and say, I want to foster/adopt this one. Then she told me to contact, The Call of Pulaski CO. We went to an information meeting and knew, even if it doesn’t work out with this child, we had to do something. There is such a need out there.
Bill McCoy, sees the word “no” as a negotiation. He contacted the case worker, her supervisor, her supervisor, and eventually got in Milton Grahams ear. He told him, that he is close to a couple, that are Christians and are getting trained through, The Call, and are trying to get this baby to keep him close to his siblings. Also, his 4 had not met their brother and they were getting anxious Mr. Graham called Robert and then Me. He asked us why we wanted to pursue this. We pretty much echoed each other. We felt called to do this, and we really wanted this child to know and grow up around his biological siblings. Mr. Graham said, “we need more loving families like you two. If you can get your home open before the child is 6 months old, we will pursue moving him to your home.”
Through all the discouragement, we still persisted. Our home was open in less than 4 months. He came to live with us when he was 4 months old. Since then, I have gained a new best friend, his first foster mom and her family. They moved recently, out of state, and still made it back for Brandon’s adoption. I also gained 4 new kiddo’s to love on. I knew them, but didn’t know them on a personal level. It was awesome to introduce them to their brother. Since that time, the girls especially, spend lots of weekends with us. We spend every holiday together, and of course we make everyone’s birthday special.
After Brandon’s 2nd birthday 11-21-17 we finally received the date of his adoption. December 11, 2017, he officially became Brandon David Cross. It was truly a celebration.
We have been blessed beyond belief. Not only is he the sweetest baby ever, he is very smart, and above or on par developmentally. Everyone loves Brandon. We have a saying in our house, the first 2 were born in my tummy, but we all chose Brandon to be a part of our hearts, and our family. We love The Call, and I am a huge advocate for foster care. We need more foster & adoptive families!!
In addition to directly supporting youth, we launched Immerse Families last year to improve support for foster and adoptive families. Our belief is that if we support foster and adoptive families well, kids in foster care and kids who find forever families, will have the permanent relationships they need to successfully navigate life. The better we support these families, the better they can help their children heal from trauma.
This effort is less than a year old, but the team driving the support is already making an incredible difference. In fact, we just held our first Youwannago Family Camp a few weeks ago. It was an incredible time of encouragement and fun for these amazing families. Below is the promotional video that will give you an idea of the camp:
Thank you so much for being a part of the Walk. It’s an incredible help to the youth and families we serve at Immerse. I truly believe that with God’s help, Arkansas can get to no more waiting!
Walking with you,
Watch the void link above about Silas and the Caldwell family!
Yes, adults can be adopted
You can imagine that many of the youth that Immerse works with have given up on the notion of having a family. For some of them, it may have been in their early teen years, or around their 9th or 10th placement in foster care, or when their adoptive family reversed their adoption, that these youth gave up on the possibility of being in a family. They may have given up on the notion of belonging or being wanted, or having someone in their corner they can trust.
It’s been incredible to witness a different story unfold over the past couple of years.
Wade and Gina Radke began mentoring a young man named Jay. Jay came to Immerse homeless right around his 18th birthday. There’s a lot details about Jay that I’ll leave for him to tell a different time, but he’s had a hard life. Over a couple of years, Wade and Gina walked with Jay. They spent time with him, challenged him, encouraged him, loved him, and stuck with him through some big ups and downs. And then recently, Wade and Gina decided to ask Jay if he’d like to be adopted into their family.
The Radke Family added a new member just a few months ago:
The courtroom was a celebration of hope, love, family and belonging. God’s work to bring this family together was beautiful to behold.
I hope the message gets out – young people ages 18, 19, 20, 21 (and up) can still be adopted. Many are still looking for families. Many still want to be wanted. Many are still waiting – waiting for people like you and I to walk with them in whatever way they need, even if it means a forever family.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if kids aging out of foster care in Arkansas, if homeless youth in our area, had families pursuing them? Not all of these youth want to be adopted, but they all need someone they can trust in their corner.
Saturday, April 28th is not only Walk for the Waiting… it’s also National Superhero Day!! We can’t think of a better way to honor the foster & adoptive families who are heroes to waiting kids than to invite everyone to wear a cape, mask or whatever says here to you & walk in honor of these everyday heroes.
One CALL foster mom wrote this…
“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strengths, but by the strength of his heart.” – Hercules
Have you ever started something assuming you knew what you would be doing and what you would get out of it, and then, to your surprise, you learned so much more, and took away more blessings than you ever could have imagined? That is how I would describe my family’s journey as a foster family here in Northwest Arkansas. No one could have prepared me for what we would learn, the people we would meet, all the many services we would become aware of, and, most importantly, all the unseen heroes that we, unfortunately, had never given much thought to. You may not know it, but there are so many amazing men and women working with “at risk” families in our area. These men and women are the caseworkers working hand-in-hand with children and families through the Department of Human Services. Today, in Arkansas, there are 5,104 children in DHS custody, and every one of those children is assigned a caseworker that advocates and speaks on their behalf. Though often overlooked, no one can wear a superhero cape more deservedly than these men and women.
The first time I met our caseworker was the night we took our first kiddo. That night will always be one of my most endearing memories. I’m not sure what I expected, but the cute little blonde-headed boy with his honor roll ribbon pinned to his shirt wasn’t it. His little world had been completely shaken that day. He was scared, angry, and had no idea what was happening, where he was going, or what to expect. Thankfully, he had a great caseworker! She was there in that scary moment when he was taken from his family–she was a smiling face, and a warm hug. She reassured him that he was safe. She brought him to my home and walked alongside him, his siblings, his family, and our family for months and months until his case was complete and a safe resolve for his family was reached. That one case would keep a single caseworker busy, but this superhero had 15+ cases happening much like it at the same time.
When someone asks me who my heroes are, at the very top of my list are caseworkers. They fight on the frontlines for families. They are often hated, disrespected, and mistreated because, in their job, they have to do hard things daily. They care deeply and are genuine. They believe in second chances and that people can change and rise up when they are given hope and support. They fight and advocate for the children who often have no voice. They start work early, leave work late and take frequent on-call hours at night and on the weekends. When a family needs them, someone is available.
I was curious what the best part of a caseworker’s job is, so I asked Benton County caseworkers Maria Taylor and Sarah Harper what they thought. Sarah said, “Getting to be part of helping families, working for reunification and seeing successful reunification.” Maria said, “Seeing a family reunified. Seeing parents successfully battle their demons, do HARD work and completely change their lives and become a better, happier, healthier family is THE BEST.” The kids they work with become their kids. They worry about them, they pray for them, they lose sleep thinking about their case and their families. These kids all have pieces of their heart and I’ve seen firsthand how hard they work to help these kids and families have healthy and happy lives. I’ve seen them rejoice when things turn out well and families are reunited, I’ve seen them be heartbroken when they don’t.
Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” This perfectly describes every caseworker I have ever met. Even though it often seems impossible, like there is no way to get it all done and complete everything that needs to be completed, they work hard day in and day out to see it through. They give families hope! Casework isn’t just a job–it’s about helping restore the broken, holding hands with those fighting the fight of their life, and being the person whose lifting them up, encouraging them, and cheering them on. Casework isn’t just a job–it’s a life changing career calling. If you happen to know one, give them a big hug and say THANK YOU! They are truly unsung heroes in our society and here in Arkansas we are blessed with some of the best!
Stephanie Laney, CALL Foster Parent
Every day, more than 2 dozen children and youth come into foster care through no fault of their own. Each one deserves a home, a family.
Arkansas needs more than 1,800 additional foster families for foster children and youth. More than 365 children and youth are waiting to be adopted. The CALL is reaching communities around the state, mobilizing the local Church and preparing Christian families to bring home waiting children and youth – whether for a season or forever.
More than 1,800 Christian foster and adoptive families recruited by The CALL have changed the lives of over 11,000 children since 2007. With the help of Sponsored Walkers like you, kids like Vanessa are finding a family:
“If my parents hadn’t gotten involved with The CALL my story wouldn’t be what it is today. I am grateful for my life, and I am grateful for my parents teaching me about love and family.”
Children and youth like Vanessa are waiting for a home today, and we can all do something to help!
Whatever you can raise during Walk for the Waiting, you give the gift of family by expanding The CALL across Arkansas, mobilizing Arkansas’ 5,900 churches statewide and providing locally accessible training and support for foster and adoptive families in your community.
On behalf of all of us at The CALL, thanks for being a part of the Walk and helping us all make sure that every child in Arkansas has a family and a future.
Executive Director of The CALL
Project Zero’s goal, our singular focus, is to have ‘ZERO’ children/teens in foster care waiting to be adopted. The funds raised from Walk for the Waiting have had a tremendous impact on the life and scope of Project Zero. Walk funds have allowed us to purchase two additional Heart Gallery exhibits and to continue shooting short films featuring our waiting children/teens. We believe that every child is special and unique and that every waiting child/teen deserves to have a voice.
Raymond had been waiting in foster care since 2009; hoping, longing, and wishing for a place to call home. In the fall of 2017, Project Zero, in partnership with Nathan Willis Films, shot a short film about Raymond that allowed him to share his story in his own words. His film reached thousands of people resulting in families from all over the country inquiring about him. It resulted in something else too…..Raymond found a forever family.
Thank you for your support, your prayers, and your passion. Thank you for faithfully giving, serving, and partnering with Project Zero and Walk for the Waiting to make ‘zero’ a reality. Your support is changing lives and futures, like Raymond’s, every day.
Love and blessings,
Christie Erwin, Executive Director/Project Zero
Our story began almost 10 years ago. Alan and I were sitting in church and Mary Carol Pederson, from The C.A.L.L., spoke about the need for Christian foster families in Pulaski county. We had never heard of a need for foster families. I had never met a kid in foster care. Our eyes were opened. Alan and I decided this was a no brainer. So in the next 2 years we went through all the necessary training and paperwork to become approved to foster or adopt. During this time we had David, our first born. Shortly after his first birthday, we began fostering. We had 10 kids in and outof our home in less than 18 months. It was a whirl wind of emotions. We experienced heartbreakand great joy. The Lord was using these children to bless us in ways I never imagined.
I remember taking one of the kids to court. That day the judge ruled that he should go home. In my humble opinion, a lot of work needed to be done on his parents part before he should go home. I called a friend and told her he was going home. Her kind response was, “isn’t this kind of what you signed up for?” I just cried. It was what we had signed up for, but my heart was still broken. Then I called a fellow foster mom and told her what happened in court and she just began to cry with me. It was obvious that this was not an easy road, but I knew I was supposed to advocate for these precious children.
In early March of 2013, while we were fostering a 4 year old girl who was transitioning home, we received a call from Christie Erwin, from The Project Zero, about adopting 2 boys. She asked if she could give my number to their grandmother and I said, “of course.” I was so excited. I can remember the next week driving to their grandparents home. The whole way there Alan said repeatedly, “Don’t get excited. This probably won’t work. Let me do most of the talking. I don’t want you to get yourheart broken.” Within 30 minutes of meeting the boys and their grandparents Alan asked, “so when can the boys move in?” It was a beautiful moment! We are so blessed that Evan and Ethan are in our lives and that their precious grandparents are like a second set of parents to us. The boys started coming to visit when our foster daughter was visiting her biological family. June 2, 2013 those two sweet boys moved in and became ours forever. It wasn’t always easy, especially since we had just opened our 3rd restaurant and Alan was in his 3rd year of law school, but God’s grace is sufficient. In July of 2014, Evan and Ethan’s adoption finalized. It was so precious to have 3 little boys. Little did we know just 2 months later we would find out we were pregnant with Moses! It was such an affirmation of our faith in our Creator and Sustainer that we had been obedient to His call to foster and adopt. Moses was born in April of 2015. It was so sweet to have 4 little boys. Our hearts and our arms were full. But God wasn’t finished yet.
Four months later I received a phone call from our HR director at work asking if we were still foster parents. He was told by one of our managers that an employee was probably going into foster care because of some things going on at home. I called everyone I had ever known who had anything to do with DCFS and fostering to try to help out this young man. No child deserves to live in a place that isn’t safe. Within a few days my request had made it all the way to the top and my prayers had been answered. They were going to let this young man live with us while we worked to get all our paper work and training up to date. Sadly, after the DCFS inquiry to his home, they decided it was safe for him to stay where he was. We called him into Alan’s office and simply asked him his story. My heart was broken for this young man. We all cried. By the end Alan told him, “if you ever need a safe place to stay, you are always welcome to stay withus.” It was so emotional for us all. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but God knew. Two dayslater this young man, JP, called me and said, “my dad is drunk and I’m scared to go home.” I told him to come on over! And that was that. He’s been with us ever since and is now our son!
When we started our foster care/adoption journey, I would have laughed if you told me I would adopt a 16 year old. The thought of that was beyond my reasoning. But His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) Now with baby boy number 6 on the way, we again have our hearts and our arms full. Since we can’t foster or adopt, we are seeking how God would have us help the cause to raise awareness and funds for these kids who need a safe, loving home. Although we may not all be able to foster or adopt, we all can do something!
This is a story about perfect timing, from a foster and now adoptive new dad’s perspective…
On a Thursday night in February 2016, we were headed home after just picking up a 5 year old boy from his current foster home. Becca had agreed to watch him for a weekend, his current foster mom was going out of town. At the time we had our now adopted son and two other foster kids in our home. Becca by this time had around 8 years of parenting under her belt, but I was a fairly new dad. And any new, honest dad will tell you parenting can be a little overwhelming at first. But it was just for the weekend and Kenny seemed to fit right in.
Our youngest foster child at this time, “J” had been with us since July 2015, when she was just a few days old. The rest of that year was spent in and out of Childrens’ Hospital, with a couple of extended stays in the NICU, dealing with J’s many health issues. In spite of the challenges, we loved “J” as our own. And as we got ready to start the weekend with our house guest, she had really turned a corner and seemed like a normal healthy, happy baby. We had a great weekend. Kenny and our oldest son Lamar got along great. Kenny, in spite of his special needs, just seemed happy all the time. At the end of the weekend we took Kenny back to his foster home. We then learned this was Kenny’s 3rd foster placement, and he was about to be moved again. We talked and prayed. Kenny’s biggest need was stability, and a routine. As crazy as our home seemed at the time with three kids, we just felt Kenny’s next stop needed to be with us. We were warned by those involved in Kenny’s case of his challenges. But the more we heard, the more it confirmed what we felt we were being led to do. Kenny was coming home.
A few days later we got a call. Unexpectedly, the decision had been made that “J” would be placed with an aunt & uncle to live. We were surprised, shocked, devastated that we wouldn’t have “J” in our lives anymore. We were torn. We knew God was in control, but our desires and vision for the future was not this. We were hurting. But we kept going, kept trusting Him.
A short time later, another call. Kenny had a younger sister. They had been split up with the thought that Lynn would be more likely to find a forever home by herself than in a sibling group with a special needs brother. “Are you able, and would you consider having Kenny and Lynn in your home together,” we were asked. This past December, right before Christmas, Kenny and Lynn became a part of our forever family.
This story, our story, is a story of God’s perfect timing. Becca and I, both married previously, both ending in divorce, crossed paths at just the right time. We both desired a family, and through adoption, God gave us our son Lamar, and Kenny, and Lynn. We have had a few foster placements in our home, and we have loved them all unconditionally. When each placement leaves, it hurts. But “C” and “C” and “J” and “V” came to us because it was just the right time for them to be in our home. And while we have cried every time they leave, it was all in perfect timing. His timing!