Brandon and I both work at Thornwell, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church USA, that serves children and families across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina through a Continuum of Care. One piece of Thonwell’s ministry is licensing and supporting Foster Families. As staff members we cannot be licensed through Thornwell though. (But if you’re interested and live in the upstate of SC – our staff is amazing!) BUT while working there, we became very aware of the benefits of being licensed through an agency like Thornwell.
Being licensed through an agency gives you another level of support, more advocates for you and the child in your care. It’s like having more people on your team! And when you have this bigger team, they are then able to connect you to an even larger village of support.
We decided to work with Epworth. Epworth is a ministry of the United Methodist Church. In many ways it is very similar to Thornwell. We have also known a few people that have worked there, so it seemed like it might be a good fit for us. Going through the licensing process with Epworth was incredibly smooth and now as we have our first placement it continues to go really well! This bigger team, the Epworth team, has definitely connected us to a larger village of support. As part of Foster Care Awareness Month, Epworth connected us to a local congregation, New Hope United Methodist Church to be part of our extended village.
Just over two weeks ago I got a call from their pastor. It was so wonderful to speak with him on the phone and hear his heart for the ministry of foster care, as well as the spirit of the congregation to learn more. He reached out with some ideas of how New Hope might be able to support us to get the ball rolling, but then, most importantly, he asked, ”Would any of those be helpful to y’all, or is there something else?” I thought about it for a minute and the first thing that came to my mind was an outside toy for D. We have a few for Romney Ann but not many for D. When I said it out loud to the pastor, I wasn’t really even sure of what D would want, but just thought any outside toy would be awesome. That coming Saturday, when we got home, there were two water guns sitting on our porch. D was so excited! Added bonus: They thought to get two so D would have someone to play against!
The next week the pastor reached out again to see what might be a way to support us. “One of D’s favorite meals is lasagna and we just haven’t had a chance to make it for him.” This past Monday, the most delicious lasagna was dropped off at our house for dinner. Monday happened to be the first day Brandon was back at work in the office full-time, so it was a day full of figuring out a new routine. Not having to worry about dinner also was such a gift!
It certainly takes a village and it certainly doesn’t have to be something huge to make a difference. I don’t think D fully understands how or why we were connected to this church, but he totally recognizes that someone wanted to do something nice for him and got him water guns to play with and made his favorite meal. Brandon and I are not members of this congregation, but we know there is a church in our community that is actively praying for us in this new venture, who is walking alongside us as a support, and who can make the best lasagna we have ever had! Most importantly, we know we have an extended village, we know we aren’t in this alone.
Everyone can do something. Maybe there is already a family in your circle of friends, your congregation, your community who is fostering. Ask what would be most helpful to them. Pick up a grocery store order, provide a meal, send a gift card, send a text or drop a card in the mail – anything to remind them they are not in this alone is such a gift. Some days are beautiful beyond my wildest dreams and some days are really hard. And we haven’t even been at this very long, but we know already that our success and longevity as part of this ministry is dependent on an incredible village of support. We are so thankful for the love that has been shown to us, and most importantly to D, by New Hope. We are thankful for our team and extended village! It’s Foster Care Awareness Month and we want to make sure you know YOU can make a difference!