Igniting a Spark

by Kim Scott

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Thirty-one percent of Christians consider becoming foster parents, while only 3% follow through and become licensed foster parents. This statistic should resonate within the soul of every Christian given that Jesus calls all of His followers to care for the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned. I know that this is not an easy decision, but I want to share with you all a few reasons to seriously pray and use discernment if you have ever considered becoming a foster parent. I believe that when we align our wills with God’s will for our lives and make room in our home for someone without a family, we are showing God’s love in a very tangible way. This love—God’s love—cannot be understated.

First, it’s important to recognize that becoming a foster parent is not only about you, it’s also about loving vulnerable kids and families. Many people feel like they may get too attached to the children they are fostering and fear the hurt they might feel if the child is reunited with their family. I understand why one might be afraid. But we must ask ourselves: Don’t these kids, like all children, deserve someone who will be attached to them and will love them through the difficulties they may be facing? Foster parenting is about providing love and having compassion for a hurting child. To be sure, this does not mean that becoming a foster parent is easy. In times like this, it is important to remember that God does not call the equipped— God equips the called. Even though it may not be easy, it will be worth it! Foster parenting is one way we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. In other words, it is one way we can do the work of Christ. It provides the golden opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ in a very practical way, which could make an eternal difference in the life of the kids and their biological families. Imagine the impact on the children as they hear prayer and the word of God in their new home. Imagine the peace the biological families would feel knowing that their children are in a loving place. Although there will be struggles, I believe that the efforts will pale in comparison to the significant impact that you could have on their lives and your own. God has a plan and a purpose for each of their lives, and you get to play a small, but vital role in helping them and their purpose. Every child has a destiny designed by God found only in an identity with Him.

There is a great need for families willing to welcome these kids into their homes so they may have the chance to discover a relationship with Christ and become all that God has called them
to be. Being able to pray for and with the kids in your home, while watching them begin to pray and develop their relationship with Jesus through what you have modeled, is an eternal reward. You can sow the seeds of faith into their lives that will reap an eternal harvest. Watching the kids learn to pray and begin praying for their biological parents produces an indescribable joy. Knowing that you have provided love, safety, prayers, and care for a child as they are navigating through their circumstances is one of life’s greatest rewards.

Becoming a foster parent provides so much opportunity to share the Gospel. The light of Christ is at its brightest when people see people loving children. You can change the world one child at a time through foster parenting. This a very powerful ministry. My prayer is that this brief essay will ignite a spark in you, and that you will seek God’s will with discernment to see if this is a ministry He is calling you to. 

Four Ways to Pray for Adoptive and Foster Families

by Lydia Huth

No matter where you are in life, you can support the adoptive and foster families in your community through your prayers. After talking with adoptive parents and AGAPE staff members, these four points have been highlighted as great ways to start praying for families in your community.

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1. Pray for emotional, mental, and spiritual preparedness.

Adoption and foster care bring many unknowns, and it is impossible for a family to plan for all possibilities. Pray that the family may have the reassurance that they are in God’s hands and that they will be equipped to handle whatever may happen.

2. Pray for a smooth transition.

Unexpected or not, changes will come as families transition into adoption and foster care. Pray that the development will be free of challenges and obstacles.3. Pray for confidence and strength in God.

Pray that the family will place their trust in God and that they will rely on Him to provide their strength. Also, pray that they may have faith in His plan and reliance on His goodness.

4. Pray that they will be examples of Christ to one another and to their family’s new additions.

If a family has been called to adoption or foster care, they have the opportunity to live like Christ in all-new situations that have a deep impact on those close to them. Pray that they will be able to live vulnerable, honest Christian lives that will help children see the reality of God’s love.

With these four concepts as your jumping-off point, look for how you can specifically pray for the families in your community. Reach out to them and ask for certain places where they need prayer, and don’t forget to follow up with them after time has passed to let them know that you are still thinking of them.

Foster Care is Always Changing

by Kim Scott

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Foster care is changing constantly and in order to continue to meet the needs of children and families in our state, we must adapt as well. Currently, there are more than 10,000 children in Foster care in North Carolina which is a 25% increase from previous years. Statistics show that 15% of the children in foster care remain in care longer. Subsequently, more than 500 children age out of foster care without finding permanent homes. When children don’t have permanent homes it leads to higher rates of homelessness, incarceration, unemployment and increased opportunities for these children to be victimized.

North Carolina lawmakers passed a law in 2015 to extend foster care services to 18-21-year-old young adults who are currently in foster care. This law became effective January 2017.

In light of the new law, AGAPE will be launching two homes that will cater to the independent living environment for young adults (18-21 years old). One of the homes is located in the Winston Salem area and will be accepting males 18-21 years of age from all over the state. The
other home is located in the Durham area and will accept young women 18-21 years of age from all over the state. While we are excited to expand our services this is just the beginning and we continue to look for couples and singles that would be interested in serving this population.

The Wounds You Cannot See

by Kia Carter

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Physical wounds often get more attention than our emotional ones. I believe this is because we can see our physical wounds and so can everyone else, so we know that we must tend to them.
For many of us, if we can not see the injury we assume there must not be a wound that needs
healing. However, the most significant wounds we suffer are often hidden from our sight. Physical wounds can leave physical scars, but emotional wounds scar our ability to trust others. To be sure, both types of wounds always leave a mark, but emotional hurt erodes trust and chips away at relationships.

At its root, trauma emerges out of our woundedness. This can be one of the toughest parts about fostering or adopting. As a foster parent, you have to earn back the trust that you never violated; you must work to redeem the hard places that you never created. You must
heal wounds that you never inflicted. Emotional wounds can heal, yet the scars will always remain. However, I believe that the scares of these children are capable of telling a beautiful story of redemption.

No child enters foster care or becomes available for adoption unless something beyond their control has gone wrong. Those who gave life to the child, who was supposed to care for them, protect them, teach them, and support them could not, would not or did not. As such, the parent-child relationship, one of the foundational and most important of all earthly relationships, was broken or severed. This is an emotionally-wounding experience. We want our children’s story to be one of beauty and gain and not one of loss and pain. But we must remember that God is not writing fairy tales with our lives. God is writing a real-life story that involves broken people living in a broken world. But this story does not end in brokenness—the story of God is a story of hope.

Foster care and adoption is an invitation to enter a child’s world, an invitation to enter into the trauma that they have faced and become an agent of God’s healing power. It is in this healing that we find hope. Dr. Karyn Purvis, the author of the book, The Connected Child, reminds us that children who were harmed in a relationship will come to experience healing through positive relationships. God’s grace and redemption entered the relational trauma of humanity and into our lives.

A miracle is an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God.
The miracle of foster care and adoption is that through loss, and despite it, God chooses God’s infinite goodness and kindness to make something beautiful—weaving the broken pieces of our lives together into a place where hope lives and wounds heal. 

God Is Good

by Kim Scott

God is good. AGAPE of NC is excited to announce how God is using our ministry to minister to the families of North Carolina. We currently have 20 children in our foster homes that are being
afforded the opportunity to know and see God working in their lives. We have opened the Salem House in Winston-Salem this month. The Salem House will cater to the 18 to 21-year-old young adult males as they develop independent living skills.

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We have 16 foster homes across the state and we have 5 families currently in training. While we are able to help many children/families in crisis the need continues to be great, and unfortunately there continue to be a shortage of foster families. Please pray for more families with a desire to serve in this capacity.

Finally, we will be offering respite training classes for those who are not ready to foster full time but want to provide babysitting and weekend relief to full-time foster parents. Please look for more information on the website or let us know you're interested in our *contact us* page.

Our Change for Life campaign has begun and ends December. This year’s goal is $100,000. Please be praying and making plans for this important campaign. Thank you, for your continued prayers and support over the rebuilding years. 

We Said Yes

video by Kevin Kolbe

The Spencer's found being foster care parents to be a simple choice saying "we saw the need" and they said yes!  They describe the experience as "the greatest thing we've ever done and the hardest thing we've ever done at the same time".  Meet this wonderful family and consider if saying yes to foster care is for you.

"Change for Life" changes a child's life with every donation. Our annual giving funds support the placement of foster and adoptive children across the state, the ongoing care and training of our foster and adoptive families, and our efforts to raise awareness of the services AGAPE of NC provides to children and families in North Carolina. 

AGAPE of NC is a 501-c3 organization. Your gift is tax deductible. You can find more information about giving to AGAPE of NC on our website at agapeofnc.org/donate

Kids In Care Need You – Maybe, Not The Way You Think

by Dawn Saffayeh

Dawn Saffayeh is Executive Director of HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, helping over 6,000 New York children, adults and families to overcome the challenges of family crises, addiction, mental illness and poverty.
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Many older youth in foster care are no longer looking for adoptive parents, but they are looking for adults they can count on.  In this article, Dawn Saffayeh from Foster Focus Magazine is debunking some of the misconceptions about what kids in foster care need.

The four needs that Dawn discusses in this article are exactly what we at AGAPE of NC are striving to do with Salem House opening this fall for boys in foster care ages 18-21 years old. Read more about Salem House in a couple of our previous blogs from this summer! 

Let Me Tell You About My Family

by Leah Leason

Leah is a wife, writer, and foster care alumni.  You can find her blog at www.pronouncedleah.blogspot.com

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In this article by Leah Leason from Foster Focus Magazine, Leah reaches into what really belonging can mean to someone raised in the foster system.  She quotes "All my life I felt like I grew up with a giant neon sign plastered on my forehead that flashed “FOSTER KID” over and over. No matter how hard I tried to fit in it always seemed like I was different and didn’t quite blend in as well as I would have liked".  

Foster Alumni groups are making a real difference giving those raised as foster children a community.  Leah found a group near her saying "After meeting this group of foster alumni I realized I wanted more. Connecting with people who have had a similar past, after living for so long feeling isolated, was one of the most validating and moving things I’ve ever experienced".

Growing up throughout the foster care system in Minnesota has inspired Leah to write and share her experiences and life. She hopes to inspire others to speak up about their experiences, break social stigmas surrounding foster care, and shed some light on an often neglected group of people. Check out her article here.  

The Biggest Blessing of Them All

by Kristin Chenoweth

award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth writes for WhoSay about her experience as an adopted child.

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In this article, Kristin gives us a glimpse into her life as an adopted child.  She says "if you’re thinking about adopting a child, remember that it’s a gift you’re getting and it comes with just as much responsibility as if you had your child biologically. On top of that, it’s a beautiful blessing that you were chosen to take care of this child and become his or her parent."  We think you will enjoy this article if you are thinking of adoption, fostering or already adopted. 

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin-chen...

Reasons & Ways to Get Involved

by Kim Scott

Over the past five years, North Carolina has seen a rise in the number of children entering the foster care system. An increase in opioid abuse and childhood poverty are two main factors contributing to the state’s surge of children in need of stable foster homes. These staggering numbers require that we respond in action. God’s call for us to defend and care for these children. We can no longer passively acknowledge the problem. We are called to actively become a part of the solution.

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As we begin to look for different areas to get involved and new places to serve, let’s continue to be mindful of God’s call to help those in need. In Psalms 82:3-4 God reminds us, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” And in James 1:27 we read that, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

If you, or someone you know, feels burdened for children in North Carolina who need safe homes and forever families, please prayerfully consider becoming involved in foster care and adoption. Involvement comes in many forms. For some, it will mean becoming a licensed foster parent or deciding it is finally the right time for your family to pursue adoption. For others, it may mean giving your time as a volunteer or donating funds to support the growth of AGAPE’s impact. Your prayers asking God to bring AGAPE strong Christian families who are willing to provide homes to children cannot be underestimated. If you are interested in getting involved, please visit the *contact us* page.

What it Means to be Chosen

video by Kevin Kolbe

Meet the Condon's in this month's video and see what we mean when we say "Love Makes a Family"! 

"Change for Life" changes a child's life with every donation. Our annual giving funds support the placement of foster and adoptive children across the state, the ongoing care and training of our foster and adoptive families, and our efforts to raise awareness of the services AGAPE of NC provides to children and families in North Carolina. Love Makes a Family!

AGAPE of NC is a 501-c3 organization. Your gift is tax deductible. You can find more information about giving to AGAPE of NC on our website at agapeofnc.org/donate. If you have questions about your gift, please call 919.673.7816 or email korander@agapeofnc.org.

What Makes AGAPE Unique?

by Lydia Huth

What sets AGAPE apart from America’s wide selection of adoption and foster care services? For many people, it comes down to AGAPE’s sense of community and Christian foundation.

AGAPE strives to support every family so that they are fully equipped to care for their adoptive or foster children. “We work diligently to provide as much support to our families as possible,” executive director Kimberly Scott said. “Our goal is to ensure they have the energy and resources that they need to care for these children as a labor of love, without taking away from their family, their finances, their way of life. All of us, families included, have the opportunity to serve and be a part of children’s journeys, and that really enriches lives.”

This caring community can truly be essential for your family. “There’s a lot of good stuff in situations like these, but there’s stressful stuff too,” Nicole Spickard, an AGAPE staff member and the daughter of AGAPE’s founding executive director, explained. “You have to laugh and love to get through the tough parts of it. AGAPE’s a family—it has to be.”

Amy Parker, a foster mother through AGAPE, says that the faith-based foundation helps her family feel secure as they teach their foster son Christian values. “As soon as we’re done with books, Matthew* is like, ‘Okay, prayers!’ and he says the sweetest little prayers. That’s important to us, and it’s nice knowing that we won’t get any pushback from any county about it. They know and understand that AGAPE is an openly Christian organization.”

If you are called to adoption or foster care, AGAPE is excited to welcome you into our community! Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have about “Why AGAPE?”

*Name changed

Kristin Chenoweth On ‘LION’ And Adoption

by Kristin Chenoweth

Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer

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Kristin shares her thoughts and personal story on adoption and the movie "Lion" in this article.  Speaking from the heart she brings a perspective that is honest and refreshing. "It’s hardly a secret that I was adopted as a baby and quite frankly, there’s absolutely no reason it should be. As I’ve grown, I’ve watched the conversation and perceptions about adopted kids and families shift, but nothing has quite captured the truth, both the good and the ugly, of adoption like the film “LION.”"  We recommend this film for adults, please note it has adult themes and is rated PG-13! 

AGAPE’s Counseling Services Are Here for You

by Lydia Huth

If you are facing a challenge in your life, AGAPE’s counselors are here to help you! Our services are not limited to foster care and adoption, as our counselors see cases of depression, anxiety, and marriage issues, as well as behavioral and oppositional cases.

When you see one of our counselors, you will find your session is grounded on a comforting and uplifting spiritual foundation. Instead of focusing on temporary behavioral changes, executive director Kimberly Scott describes that AGAPE counselors highlight “use of the Holy Spirit to encourage and maintain change.” Our goal is for you to find lasting peace in Christ.

Concerned about fitting counseling into your schedule? AGAPE is happy to work with your needs. Our counselors offer flexible scheduling and can meet with you in your community, at your home or in the AGAPE office.

Are you ready to take a step towards a better you? We are currently accepting new patients. Find out more about our services HERE, or contact us to set up an appointment by phone at 919-673-7816.

SELF-CARE SUPPORTS HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

by Megan Holmes 

Megan Holmes is a foster care alumna and recent graduate of NC Central University, where she earned a BSW degree with a minor in Spanish.

In this article, Megan explores the benefits of self-care for the care taker and those they care for.  Megan says "Self-care can take many forms. For one person it may be writing. For another, it could be music or reading a book in the park. What matters is that people take the time to do something they enjoy or helps improve their focus, productivity, and relationships." Take a few minutes to read this article, you won't be disappointed.  

Source: http://fosteringperspectives.org/?p=1214

SOCIAL CONNECTIONS HELP YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE THRIVE

by Fostering Perspectives and Special thanks to the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Francie Zimmerman for her contributions to this article.

What does it mean to help a youth with social connections?  And what could be your role as the friend of a foster family? Just how do social connections make a difference? All these questions and more are answered in a practical way in this article by Fostering Perspectives.  

Source: http://fosteringperspectives.org/?p=1241

Staff Profile: Meet Kaye Orander

by Lydia Huth

Administrative assistant Kaye Orander has known about AGAPE of N.C. since she was in college. However, it was after thirty years working as a corporate law paralegal that she grew interested in working for a nonprofit and found her way to AGAPE’s door. “AGAPE,” Orander said, was “right there in my church—right on my doorstep.” While there were no staff positions available at that time, volunteers were needed, and so she stepped up.

When Orander was asked to move from volunteering into her current staff position, it was daunting. “I said, ‘I will try,’” Orander recalled. “It has definitely gotten me out of my comfort zone and stretched me.”

In her day to day work, Orander performs a wide variety of administrative duties. She works with the technical side of donations, through populating the growing donor management database and tracking financial contributions. However, you will also find her alongside volunteers, taking part in sending thank-you notes to AGAPE’s supporters, collecting and delivering backpacks with overnight essentials for foster kids, and helping churches plan how to celebrate the foster families in their midst.

Interacting with the donors and volunteers, Orander says, is one of her favorite parts of working with AGAPE. “Working with AGAPE’s supporters has been a joy. I get to see and encourage their enthusiasm, and I get to listen to their stories,” she said. “I’ve been told about unplanned pregnancies, counseling, and how that’s impacted people and their families. I believe some people just need to share their stories, and I feel privileged and honored to hear them.”

HOW RESOURCE PARENTS CAN HELP STRUGGLING STUDENTS

by Kelly Sullivan

Kelly Sullivan, PhD, is a Licensed Psychologist, Director of Mental Health Services at the Center for Child & Family Health, and an Assistant Professor at Duke University Medical Center.

"School is the work of childhood" says Kelly in this article by Fostering Perspectives and doing this work well can be a real challenge if the child is in foster care. Many foster parents know all too well the ups and downs of homework with a child that has difficulty.  Kelly says "Try not to view these behaviors negatively. Think of them not as attention-seeking but as attachment-seeking." This article is full of good advice for any parent. 

Source: http://fosteringperspectives.org/?p=1251

What It’s Like to Grow Up in a Foster Family

by Lydia Huth

Foster care was always a part of Nicole Spickard’s life. She herself had been fostered to adoption as an infant, and when she was nine, her family resumed fostering children.

“We were a very hands-on family,” she recalled. “As kids, we helped out. My mom made these little tickets, and for every diaper you changed, you’d get one. Once you got so many tickets, you could go see a movie or go shopping.”

Despite growing up in the mid-eighties, foster care wasn’t unusual for Spickard. “My best friend growing up was in a foster family through AGAPE, too,” she said. “She and I always had different kids in our families. It wasn’t unusual to be surrounded by all colors of skin at the dinner table.”

Other people in her community weren’t as accustomed to seeing foster families, however. Spickard remembered several instances where she and her brother faced disapproving looks from community members, especially while looking after foster children of another race. “One time, we were in an elevator, and I was holding one of the kids we had then,” Spickard said. “I remember everyone else in the elevator just turned and stared. My brother didn’t like things like that—my momma says he’s got this righteous indignation about it. Sometimes, he’d talk right back at the people staring.”

“Growing up in a foster family was a good learning experience for my brother and me,” Spickard said. Looking back, she said that it helped her make better decisions, and it helped both her and her brother have more compassion for how families can get into situations leading to foster care. “It’s not all abuse, and not everyone realizes that,” she noted.

As much as Spickard loved growing up in a foster family, she believes that fostering is for certain families in certain seasons of life. “I don’t know if I would be a foster mom right now,” she said. “I have two beautiful little girls with beautiful hearts, and I don’t want that to go away. I’d be concerned about certain situations that can come up—I never thought I’d be that mom, but I am!”

Fortunately, there are ways that all families can introduce their children to the lessons learned by foster families. “We do have one family at our church with foster kids, and those kids are in my daughter's class,” Spickard said. “They know that the parents are taking care of these kids for a while.” In any season of life, children can see their parents and their church family caring for children in the community.