What is Spring Break like for foster children?

For many children and teenagers Spring Break means freedom. It means freedom from tests and teachers, freedom from the rigidity of the school schedule, and the occasional freedom to travel. A single week of possibility.

However, many children in foster care have a drastically different experience. Spring Break can mean loneliness without the familiar faces of teachers and peers, it can mean anxiety and rest disruption without the structure of the normal week, and it can also mean being completely overwhelmed by the fear of missing out on whatever their biological families are, or would be, doing.

Youth who find themselves in the foster care system are removed from everything that anchors them. The people in their lives with whom they have the strongest attachment, their parents, are not able to be with them every day. Their relationships are reduced with greater community of individuals with whom they have attachments: pastors, neighbors, coaches, teachers, etc.

For these children, Spring Break doesn’t equal freedom, but even more loss.

If they are in a foster home, they have a family that loves and provides for them until they are able to be reunited with their biological family. But that doesn’t always mean it’s comfortable. And school, though difficult and not-super-fun, can many times act in a way that normalizes their experience.

After suffering the loss of their parents, their pets, their physical home, routines, they have a full week where they are forced to take a break from the thing that has kept them grounded.

A week of guessing what their bio parents are doing.

A week of scary new experiences and destinations.

A week where they don’t have their friends and teachers, school counselors and lunch-ladies to help them have a break emotionally from all that is going on around them.

A week of exploring and enjoying, drawing close to and falling in love with a family to whom they will one day have to say “goodbye.”

A week rid of distractions, allowing more time to reflect on the trauma or neglect they witnessed in their home and the traumatic experience of being removed from their home.

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How do we help? What can we do to relieve as much of the stress and anxiety from these children and teens as possible?

  • You can pray. Pray for these children and families to continue healing, to continue growing.
  • You can give.  More financial resources for The CALL, Project Zero, and Immerse means more families, more adoptions, and more resources for the teens who are homeless, living in group homes, or aging out of the foster care system.
  • You can show more mercy and grace to the foster families and children with whom you interact. Don’t assume you know what they are going through, but provide them more compassion and empathy than ever before.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Unsung Heroes

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

What WFTW means to The CALL

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:


Vanessa’s Story

“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.

Thank you,

Lauri Currier

Executive Director of The CALL

Forever Family Friday

Luck had nothing to do with it… God formed the Lozada family!

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It was 2014 and our family of 5 seemed to be “enough”. Having 3 children and bustling through life, we were not looking to expand our family. However, when Isaac’s availability was brought to our attention, it was all we could do to fight for him.

We spent several hours a week at our local athletic club where Isaac also had a membership. My first interaction with Isaac, he introduced himself with, “You know I am up for adoption.” Tears rolled down my cheeks and luckily he couldn’t see them from my large sunglasses. In my mind I thought we could never adopt a teen as our oldest was 9 at the time. Tucking that piece of information in my heart, I moved on. Isaac became popular among the regular members and we found ourselves engaging in his world. At one point I remember him running to several of us during a class, squealing with excitement that he was going to be adopted. A few short weeks later, Jason and I learned that his adoption failed. It was heart-breaking to watch Isaac return to the club knowing his hopes had been shattered. It was then that God spoke to both of us by providing assurance that we had the ability to love Isaac and accept him in our family.

Christie Erwin with Project Zero was the first person I contacted not having a clue what to do. We began the paper-trail and training through The Call and DHS. Six months later, Isaac was having his first visit one Friday evening. The following Tuesday was his first over-night visit. He has never left our home since then. We were called “mom” and “dad” days after his move-in. After fulfilling the required 6 month stay, Isaac became a Lozada on January 26, 2015 spending 1001 days in foster care. {While this time might seem frustrating and rigorous to you current waiting families, KEEP FIGHTING. Don’t stop the process and be patient with the people that are working behind the scenes for you. Not to say don’t be assertive, because it does take a strong desire and willingness to push forward. Hiccups can cause our spirit to feel defeated while emotions are running high.}

Before his initial visit with us, we met with the director of the boys’ home that Isaac was living in. This man’s first priority was to protect Isaac and he wanted to make sure we were not going to run after hearing troublesome news of Isaac’s previous and current behavior. I remember walking away from that meeting feeling worry, some panic, heart-ache, and hope. You honestly wonder if this child will do the same things once he moves in and will this be a mistake for all involved. After Jason and I worked through those emotions, confirmation still stood to move forward. Only God can provide that peace and affirmation in a situation like this.

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Adoption for us is trying to provide a child with a stable environment, a place to call home, a family that allows mistakes and doesn’t give up, and hoping the resources we give him will help the healing process. There are challenges with anything we do in life……parenting, marriage, work issues. Adoption comes with challenges too as one is trying to mesh a child within their current living situation. Siblings might deal with jealousy, parents require extra communication to see eye-to-eye, or a momma might have to give more hugs than she thinks she is capable. It’s not necessarily dreamy but it is doable. And the only way to make it doable for us is with God’s guidance. There have been times where we wonder ‘what have we done’ and ‘will we survive’?! You will because God promises we have inherited his greatness with the same power that raised Christ from the dead. He gives us the spirit of wisdom and the heart to persevere (Ephesians 1).

Loving Isaac steadily grows each day. While it wasn’t God’s desire for him to be removed from his biological mother, it was His plan for us to be Isaac’s forever family.

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Forever Family Friday

The Blankenship Family

“As parents we take on so many roles: story-teller, boo-boo kisser, listener, friend, disciplinarian, teacher, student, transporter, nurse, and one I have found myself in a lot lately – being their voice. I have been their voice to advocate for their needs, and to help others understand where they are coming from or why they might be behaving the way they are. I’ve been their voice to help them express how they are feeling when they just couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve been the voice to answer their questions – even the really tough questions that broke my heart. I’ve been the voice to tell their story – because it’s a God-sized story that should be told. I’ve been their voice because they don’t have a voice of their own yet. Sometimes it’s a fun job, sometimes it’s not. But it always involves me looking beyond myself to what is best for the little people God blessed me with.

That’s what Walk for the Waiting gives us an opportunity to do – we can be their voice. But not just the voice for our own kids but we can be the voice for all the kids in Arkansas who are waiting. We can shine a light on the orphan crisis happening in our state and bring a voice to the issue. Walks, rallies, protests are all successful because a large group of people come together to say one thing. They unite their voices behind one cause and dare others to do the same. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s not. But it’s not about us. It’s about looking beyond ourselves to the fatherless and the voiceless and telling the world that we refuse to let their story end like this. It’s about speaking up – loudly if necessary – for people who the world tends to ignore. It’s about leveraging what you have on behalf of someone who has nothing. And the one thing we all have that we can use today on behalf of waiting kids in Arkansas is our voice.” – Carrie Blankenship

God truly does set the lonely in families. Sometimes we are so weighed down by the sheer numbers of kids in foster care and those waiting to be adopted, that we forget the ‘one’. The Blankenship’s story is a story of hope, of redemption and restoration, of faith and unconditional love; it’s a beautiful story written by a heavenly Father to whom no detail is too small, no obstacle too big. God writes the best stories and we are honored to have the privilege to tell this one.

Watch their video by clicking the link below:

 

Why Jacquelyn Walks

Why am I walking?

I am walking for my future children. I am walking for your child’s college roommate or for your future daughter in law. I think so many times we forget that these kids are going to grow up and become adults. Most of them will go to college, start a career and someday have a family of their own. But some of them will live on the streets and become homeless.

I believe that our childhood plays a big part in who we are. A lot of the children in foster care learn at an early age that their survival is up to them. A lot of them have learned how to find and provide meals for themselves and their siblings before the age of 5. The older child is typically forced to raise the younger kids and they are often more mature than the majority of their peers. They are more than likely alone and by themselves most of the day, they may never step foot in a school until they enter foster care, they might not even know what church is and they will most likely be emotionally shut down because they know that no one will answer their cry. The word neglected is an understatement.

If you had a chance right now to shield them from this pain, would you? If you knew that your future daughter in law, son in law or grandchild was in foster care at this very moment, wouldn’t you want to do all you could to take them out of those tough situations and make sure they are raised in a safe and healthy environment?

Most of the children in foster care will want better for their own children and will strive to become super moms and super dads. Some of them will want to help others and may become Foster Parents, Doctors, Attorneys, Counselors, Case Workers, Teachers, Police Officers, or they may want to start a program that in some way might help foster children.

Before I started working at The CALL, I never gave foster care more than a passing glance. I had been considering changing my career but I didn’t know where the Lord wanted me next. I knew I wanted to do something that would make a difference, and the Lord brought me to The CALL.

My husband and I were considering 12291791_10205109540128530_8176117510998575058_obecoming foster parents for the last 6 months and I am happy to say that we are now on the journey to becoming foster parents! It was so easy for us to think “someone else will do it” or “I couldn’t really make a difference”.

But the facts are that if one person in every church in Arkansas would open their home, we would be meeting the need. That’s it! Sounds easy right? BUT there are many churches that do not have foster & adoption programs, or they might not recognize the local foster & adoption organizations in their community. They may not have a plan to help and encourage the current foster families in their congregation.

Walk for the Waiting is an outreach. We are going out into the community to find those churches, businesses and families that are ready to put the children’s needs before their own.

Wouldn’t it be incredible to be one of the only states that doesn’t have a problem with foster care?

Wouldn’t it be remarkable for the world to see that God is here in Arkansas and changing lives?

We are not asking you to become foster parents. We are asking you to care. We are asking you to see the need. We are asking you to walk.

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