Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meet Dustin, Daniel, and Ricky {New Initiative!}

In every state across the US, there are currently children in foster care who are waiting for a forever family.  Their parents rights have been terminated and they are now free to be loved and welcomed into a family through adoption.  

As of April 2013, there were 5,013 children in the foster care system of Alabama.  Five hundred of those children sit waiting, currently ready to be adopted.  

And here is the thing: waiting children don't have to be adopted just by Alabama families, anyone across the country could become their parent.  

Heart Gallery Alabama strives to help find a permanent, loving family for every child in Alabama's foster care system who is in need of a home


Their heartbeat is the mantra, "There are no unwanted children. Only unfound families."

ONEfamily very much agrees.  

A blog friend Catie, over at This High Calling, announce that every Monday she would be posting about a child available for adoption in the state of Alabama. 

We're on board too. 

We've got big dreams for what could happen.  Each week Catie will share a beautiful face and and their story.  Then we'll share it.  Our hope is then that YOU will share it. And if you share it, maybe your facebook friends will share it, and then their (cousin/friend from high school/tennis partner/co-worker, will open up the link. . .

And maybe, JUST maybe, one of those people will see the face of the child they have been praying for . . .

It only takes ONE family to provide a forever home to a child.  

Let's find that family. 

Let us introduce you to these three handsome brothers. . . 


Meet Dustin, Daniel, and Ricky

Dustin, born February1999, enjoys watching TV, playing video games and reading. He likes the Harry Potter Books. He is creative. He prefers the indoors and enjoys playing alone. Dustin's grades are average and he maintains passing grades. He does wear glasses to help him see the black board in the classroom. 

Daniel and Ricky were born in February 2003. Daniel has an IEP in place for speech therapy to assist with a speech impediment. His grades have been good. He likes to play outside and swim. Daniel enjoys watching TV, playing video games, and playing with others. He is very energetic. He is also creative and likes to draw. 

Ricky likes to play outside and go swimming. He also likes to go fishing. Ricky enjoys watching TV, playing video games, and playing with others. He is very energetic and is creative. He makes friends easily. 

These brothers need a family that can attend to their therapeutic needs and keep them together. They need to be placed together for adoption with a family that has no other children in the home.


If you'd more information about these boys and other available children, please head over to the Heart Gallery of Alabama.


Blog friends, let's advocate for and pray these children into a forever home.  Let us be a voice for the voiceless. 

Excited to partner together with you! 




Monday, April 29, 2013

One Hour


(UPDATE: The MENTOR MEETING will be held on May 15th at 6pm in Room 7208.  Childcare WILL be provided.) 

This Wednesday, we ask you to lay aside your perceptions and ideas about teens in foster care.  

We ask that you take a step of faith and consider coming alongside a child who needs someone to love them despite their past and their current circumstances.  

We ask for one hour of your time to join us and learn more about what it means to become a mentor.  

That is all. 

No commitment. 

No signing on the dotted line.  

Just a willingness to learn more.  

We would love to see you there. 


video


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Become a Mentor


In our county alone, there are over 40 adolescents in foster care who are currently living in a group home or institution.  Many of these are children who have been in the system for years and probably have spent some time in and out of foster homes.  

Because of their age, the likelihood that they will given an adoptive placement is slim, as statistics show that most families are looking to adopt younger children under the age of ten. 

The majority of these teenagers will age out of the system without have the opportunity to join a forever family.  

For these children, the cards are stacked against them. 

I've already written here about the grim statistics of aging out of the foster care system.  Let me add some more.  

National data for teenagers who age out of the system:
  • 81% of males will have been arrested by age 24. 
  • 54% report having at least one mental health problem. 
  • 33% receive neither a high school diploma nor a GED, compared to fewer than 10 percent of their same-age peers.
  • 33%  have household incomes below the poverty level, which is three times the national rate.
  • 25% have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, compared to 15% of Vietnam War veterans and 12% of Iraq War veterans.
To say these kids have not been given a fighting chance is a gross understatement.  

The ONEfamily ministry has spent the last two years building a foster care network of licensed families and support teams to assist those that are fostering.  Over twenty families have become licensed to foster, forty children have been fostered by a family in our church, and three children adopted out of the foster care system. 

A lot of misconceptions about foster children have been dispelled through people taking part in caring for actual foster child in our city.  It's been amazing to watch our church transform in just two years. 

One glaring omission, however, has been working with foster children over the age of ten.  Because many of them have already been placed in a group home or institution, there has been little need for  families to take them in.  

But even though there is not a need for a full-time foster placement, the fact remains that there are still over forty kids, living in group homes, who may not have an adult pouring into their life on a regular basis.  

ONEfamily wants to change that.  We are a church with a couple thousand people of all ages, races, and backgrounds.  There are empty nesters, young families, single adults, families with older children, and couples with no children. 

Frazer has hundreds of families in the church and Montgomery has 40 adolescents in foster care living in a group home or institution. 

We think it's possible to see each child partnered with a Foster Care Mentor from our Frazer family. 

So, what does that mean? 

The word "Mentor" can be daunting, as it often brings with it an air of knowledge and level of qualification.  However, the true definition of a Foster Care Mentor is someone who shows up in the child's life.  Someone who listens, who supports and who encourages. 

Teenagers in foster care need to be told that they mean something and that there is hope for their future. They need to be encouraged to dream.  

Many of them have spent years living one day to the next, surviving rather than thriving.  

We want to help them see that their past does not have to define their future and that God has a much, much bigger plan for their life. 

ONEfamily will be hosting an information meeting about becoming a Foster Care Mentor on Wednesday, May 1st, at 6pm.  Please join ONEfamily and Amanda Faulk, DHR Social Worker, in room 7208 to learn more.  Ms. Faulk will address the misconceptions about teenagers in foster care, share about the current needs, and offer ways for you to play a role in the life of a teenager in foster care.  

Please join us! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Reality of Aging Out

Blog posted originally by Leslie Word here

In 2009, nearly 40% of children in foster care were over the age of twelve.  Over one third of them were living in institutional foster care settings, as compared to less than 4% of children under the age of 12.  Estimations based on the national system indicate that a youth in foster care changes placements every six months.

Adolescence is one of the most difficult times in life. It's a period where we are desperately searching to find our place and to be accepted and loved.  We are trying to figure out who we are, what we believe in and whether we are worth something to anyone.   

Most kids today are working through all of that in a stable home environment.  Not our nation's foster children.  These children, who already have had their freedom and their voice taken away upon entering the foster care system, are often left to navigate the rough waters of adolescence alone. 

It's inexcusable.

Over a third of our foster teens are living in an institution, not a family.  They do not have someone asking about their day, checking on their homework, consoling them through a break-up, or cheering them at their basketball game.

No one is praying for them, encouraging them, challenging them, or just plain doing life with them.

Teenagers in foster care who have not been adopted face an overwhelmingly bleak future. 

Foster Care laws vary state by state, but most children "age out" of foster care between 18 and 21. 

What does that mean?

Teens who "age out" are no longer provided with resources and services by the state.  Once they leave the system, they must find their own living arrangements, job, transportation, and meet their own daily needs.

Here is why that is troubling.

  • 50% of teens in foster care drop out of high school.
  • 60% of them will be homeless, go to jail, or die within one year of leaving the foster care system at age 18.
  • Girls in foster care are 600% more likely than the general population to become pregnant before the age of 21.
  • 3 in 10 of the nation's homeless are former foster children.
  • Only 7-13% of foster children enroll in higher education.
  • 1% of former foster children earn a college degree.

Bleak.

These are the forgotten children.

Most would agree that it is a whole lot easier to love a chubby-cheeked nine month-old baby who just came into foster care than a surly, brash teenage girl who has been in care for over a decade.  

But that surly, brash teenage girl was once nine months old.  She once lived with a biological family, and somewhere along the way, things went horribly wrong.  She has since suffered because of the decisions of those who were meant to protect her.  Years, memories, and dreams have been stolen from her.  And it's not her fault. 

Children in foster care do not have a voice.  They do not get to decide where they go and with which family they will be placed.

Once they hit adolescence, there are very few people left fighting for them.

And that's when they need it most.

So what can be done?

1.  Become a foster parent to teens.  It's not a job for everyone, but it's a job for someone.  Could that be your family? Contact your local Social Services department to inquire about the needs, requirements, and training required.

2.  Give, Donate, Encourage. There are great organizations that come alongside teens aging out of the foster care system.  Take a minute to check them out and see if you want to be a part. 

The Camellia Network. Supporting specific former foster teens who have aged out by helping them with college, finding a job, and providing a gift registry to assist them in getting on their feet.

Do 1 Thing.  Foster Care and Homelessness often coincide. Do 1 Thing is an organization dedicated to helping out our nation's homeless youth, many of whom are former foster children.  You can find a listing of organizations by state that are doing something to help eradicate homelessness here.

3. Become a Mentor.  It's a disheartening reality, but adoption isn't going to happen for many adolescents in foster care.  That is all the more reason that we need to fight to make sure they are not  forgotten or ignored. 

Mentoring a foster child is where a relationship is built without the child living full-time in the home. There are many ways that it can look; time spent hanging out, going to eat, offering wisdom and guidance, a shoulder to cry on, or even just a sounding board for a teen who never has anyone that listens to them. This is a role that can be life-changing, for both the mentor and the teen. Everyone needs someone who has their back, is going to fight for them, and encourages them to dream about the future.  

On May 1st, at 6pm, ONEfamily will be hosting an informational meeting on becoming a Mentor.  Amanda Faulk, DHR Social Worker, will be sharing about the needs, the misconceptions of foster children, and the ways in which you can get involved in Mentoring. Please join us at Frazer UMC in Room 7208 to learn more. 

If we start REALLY investing in our foster children, imagine the possibilities. . .
  • Education, college, and careers can become a reality for them, not just a pipe dream
  • Fewer inmates in our prison system
  • Fewer unwanted/unplanned pregnancies 
  • The generational cycle of abuse and neglect can stop 

By just CARING about a child and offering LOVE and TIME, it could impact our entire NATION.  

Wow. 

Doing something doesn't take a special degree or talent.  It means being there and showing up for child in need. 
Someone needs to fight for them.  Will it be you? 


Statistics Found From the Following Sites: 
http://azhope.com/about/foster-care-statistics.php

http://www.journalismcenter.org/resource/child-welfare/foster-care-and-permanence
http://www.childtrends.org/Files/Child_Trends-2011_11_01_RB_TeenParentsFC.pdf
http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2012-06-24/what-comes-next

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Foster Care Q&A Part II: Decisions, Expenses, and the Biological Family

Originally posted by Leslie Word at Waiting On A Word.

This is the second installment of the Foster Care Q&A Series.  If you missed the first post, Foster Care: The Basics, please take a moment and read it first.

Disclaimer: Each state has their own Foster Care rules and regulations.  I will try and answer questions as basic and broad as possible, but will be speaking from our experience as foster parents in Alabama.  I encourage you to research your state Department of Human Resources or independent Foster Care Agencies to learn more. 

1.  Can you decide what ages and gender of the children you will foster? 
     Yes.  As a foster parent, you have the right to set parameters on your age range, gender preference, physical and emotional disabilities.  When a social worker calls you with a potential placement, they will be giving you as much information as they know. There is a quick turnaround time between removal of the child from their home and placement into a foster home.  It's important to take note that they often do not have a full medical history of the child.  As a foster parent, you must be flexible and willing to accept that children may come into your home with more medical or emotional issues than first determined by the social worker.

2. Do foster parents get reimbursed for expenses related to the child? 
     Foster Parents receive a monthly subsidy for each child in their home.  This is to cover their "room and board."  In addition, foster children are on Medicaid and any additional medical expenses are paid by the state department of social services.  In Alabama, and most likely other states, foster children under the age of five are eligible for WIC (Women, Infants, Children Food/Nutrition Program).  This program provides a monthly supplement of formula for infants or basic food necessities for toddlers.  This is a great help to foster parents with food costs.

3.  How much interaction will the child have with their biological family while in foster care? 
     The court system will decide how much interaction the biological family will have with one another. The purpose of foster care is first and foremost always reunification.  The court system will give the family as many chances as possible that are safe for the child and will provide an opportunity for the biological family and child to maintain their bond.  It could be a weekly supervised visit at the Department of Human Resources, an unsupervised visit at on a Saturday afternoon, or overnight visits to the birth family, to name a few examples.

4.  Does the foster parent have much face to face interaction with the biological family? 
     It often depends on the specific case of the child.  There will be times where the biological family is deemed too dangerous and a threat to the safety of the child and therefore, interaction is not encouraged.  In other cases, if the foster parent feels comfortable and reunification is the end goal for the child, interaction may be a good idea.  For example, the parents of the child may accompany the foster parent to the child's doctor appointments or come to the child's soccer games.


Foster Care Q&A: Part 3 Coming Soon! 

Looking for some other blogs of Foster Parents around the country? Head over here for a huge list of foster care blogs. 

Have more questions after reading this?  Leave them in the comments below or send an email to onefamily@frazerumc.org.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Guest Post: Going Back for More

Donnie Manis is a follower of Jesus, orphan care advocate, member of Frazer, and die-hard Alabama fan. His heart is tied to the people of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after he went on a mission trip there a few years ago.  He went with the intention of escorting his niece on the trip and instead, his life was changed forever. He has been back to Addis Ababa every year since.  Today he share with us why he continues to go back.  You can read more from Donnie on his blog here.


It was a normal December day less than four years ago. My phone rang at work and I recognized the number. It was my niece Brooke. 

I had promised to take her on a trip for graduation. She was calling to tell me that she wanted to go on a mission trip. 

To Africa.

Africa? Umm, ok. 

I’ve got to confess that in my 50 years I had never once had a thought that I wanted to set foot on African soil. I was so proud of her for wanting to do this, but this was intimidating. Maybe her mom would tell us she couldn’t go.  

I am so glad she didn’t. 

Through the wisdom and heart of this teenager, God moved my heart and gave me an incredible love for the children of a community on the west side of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  A place called Korah.  Out of a two-week trip, we only spent two days in Korah. But God spoke to me and I knew I would be back. 



We spent time with a ministry that was doing a summer camp (VBS-like) program for the children, and setting up a programs that would allow many of them to break the cycle and get an education while hearing the Good News. 



This summer I will be going back for the fourth time.  I can’t stay away. 

There are some who would say, why? 

Why keep going back to visit the same children? 

Why not donate money rather than spend it going over there? 

What good are you doing by seeing them one week a year?

Fair questions.  I could probably write a book about why I believe God is leading me to travel across the world to see these people again and again. Or I could just quote James 1:27. But here are just a few reasons I keep going back:

Well, James 1:27…and dozens of other passages about God’s heart for the oppressed. Actually, not just dozens of isolated passages, but a theme – a thread – running through the entire Bible. Jesus came to rescue us when we were most helpless, just as the God of Israel had done throughout the Old Testament. He didn’t just send us provisions to meet our needs; he came in person. We are called to do the same. There is no substitute for a smile, a kind word, a touch, and time spent with someone. I don’t know about you, but my greatest need is to know I’m loved. There’s nothing that says, “I love you” like a personal visit.

I think we have fallen into the trap of believing that money solves all problems. We believe it about our own lives – if I just had a little more, I’d be happy. Well, it’s not true for us and it’s not true for them. Yes, financial support is important. But it is no substitute for what happens when they see a bus roll down their street full of Christ-followers who cared enough to come spend time with them and share not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

I can’t share my life with them without ever seeing them. I love my friends who are investing their lives in these children full time. This is so important, because I’m fooling myself if I think one week a year is going to change the lives of the people in Addis.  Right? 

Wrong..... if my visits encourage the hearts of those God is using there 365/24/7, then yes, it is making a difference. I’m talking about both the leaders who were born in Addis and devoted their lives to changing their community and those from other countries who have been called to live there full time. I go each year praying that something about my visit will help my friends there lift up Jesus and change the lives of the children. It’s not hit-and-run ministry; it’s a small part in a bigger plan. 

To the extent that I remember that, I can get excited about how God is using me without getting a false sense that I have to save everyone because I have limited time. I am there to serve the people God has placed there.

It changes me. 

God has worked through my Africa experience to give me heart for orphans in our community. My eyes have been opened to needs all around me, and it began when he opened my eyes to the needs of children 8,000 miles away. 

I have a much greater view of how big God is and his plan for the nations because I’ve seen his work among the people of Addis. If you want to really see the heart of God, spend time with the people he has a heart for.

Those are just a few reasons – well, looking back maybe I did write a book! But there’s just so much to say. God is more awesome, merciful, loving, powerful, and wise than I ever imagined before July 2010.  And I owe that to my dear friends in Ethiopia.

And so I keep going back for more.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

ONEfamily Chick-Fil-A Spirit night!

Eat Chicken.  Help a family with their adoption! 

ONEfamily is hosting a Chick-Fil-A Spirit Night this Tuesday, March 19th from 5-7pm at their Eastchase location. 

By simply dining at Chick-fil-a, you are helping a Frazer family in the adoption process!  Adoption can be expensive and this is an easy way to be a part of bringing a child into a forever family.  

Frazer UMC has teamed up with Lifesong for Orphans to open an Lifesong Adoption Fund.  Members of Frazer currently in the adoption process can apply for a matching grant through this fund, which will help defray the costs of adoption. 

Chick-Fil-A will donate 20% of the proceeds to the Frazer Lifesong Fund.  

When ordering at the counter or the drive-thru, please be sure to indicate that you are there for the "Spirit Night," so the money is properly allocated.  

We hope to see you there!