Staff Spotlight: Kia Carter

Leah Tripp

Kia Carter is passionate about community.

As a social worker with AGAPE of North Carolina for a little over 2 years, Carter has seen just how important relationships, community, and connection are within foster families, but also within the agency itself.

Carter’s steadfast belief in the life-giving quality of community has led her to implement several initiatives, new to AGAPE this year, to nurture growth and connection among foster families.

One of these initiatives combines education and technology, as Carter is attempting to create an online study book for foster parents who are in the process of receiving their continuing education hours. Carter’s career as a social worker has shown her just how helpful support programs like this can be for busy families.

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“I know it can be hard to get the 10 hours that they need every year to continue their licensing, so I want to try and make it as convenient as I can with information that I know will be helpful for all of our foster parents.”

Carter also speaks to the importance of AGAPE’s quarterly connection gatherings as a means for foster families to support one another. These meetings allow foster parents within the agency to meet one another and share advice and encouragement. Carter explains that these meetings allow foster parents to support one another through challenges, and celebrate together in victories.

In addition to providing community for current foster families, these gatherings also give Carter hope for the future in terms of implementing a mentoring program for new foster parents. She explains that while she, as a social worker, can offer practical advice and experience, she realizes the value in hearing from someone who has truly been where you are.

“When you have someone who has gone before you and done what you are in the process of doing it is nice to have someone to talk to that gets it.”

While the concept of a mentoring program is still in the works, Carter explains that any program that creates community has its root in the gospel, and therefore, is worth creating and cultivating within an organization like AGAPE, which Carter says functions as a family in itself. AGAPE functions like a tight-knit family, and therefore seeks to create communities for those involved with its services.

Carter ends by sharing her ultimate motivation for her upcoming initiatives: her faith.

“Community is life-giving—and essential to following Christ. Scripture says that’s because we’re better together than we are alone.”

Christina Meredith Talks Foster Care on The Today Show

Leah Tripp

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Christina Meredith is a woman of many titles: college student, member of the U.S. Army, former Miss California, and most recently, a published author.

For many years, Meredith could also be identified by another title: “ward of the court.”

At age 16, Meredith was removed from the care of her mother and uncle, an environment that included a wide variety of abuse. Meredith was one of ten siblings, and after reporting the long-standing abuse to authorities, she was placed in foster care.

While being removed from her home spared Meredith from the abuse she had been enduring for years, she soon aged out of the foster care system, leaving her homeless and living out of her car. She was 18 years old.

Despite the obstacles life continued to throw her way, Meredith refused to give in. She drove across the country in her car that doubled as her home, and in a stroke of good fortune, was scouted to participate in the Miss California Competition. In 2013, she won the competition.

From that moment, Meredith decided to use her platform and determination to reform issues within the foster care system. And that’s exactly what she’s doing.

On March 5th, Meredith appeared on The Today Show, talking about her upcoming book, CinderGirl, but also speaking to the number of foster youth who age out of the system with little to no support, many of them becoming homeless, just as Meredith was.

Meredith called the situation a “travesty,” explaining that if every church in the U.S. committed to eradicating the issue of homeless foster youth, they could do it.

Her appearance on The Today Show serves as a call to action for the American people, especially faith-based organizations, to open their eyes to the need of young adults in the foster care situation. Further, Meredith’s story points to the fact that every life has value, and that no life is too far gone to be redeemed and restored.

Meredith’s interview can be viewed here:

https://www.today.com/video/homeless-as-a-teen-woman-calls-for-foster-care-system-reform-145229318 7540

Meredith’s memoir, CinderGirl hit shelves on March 5th.

Staff Spotlight: Mary Arnold, Director of Social Services

Leah Tripp

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On January 1st of 2019, Mary Arnold officially stepped into her new position as AGAPE of North Carolina’s Director of Social Services.

The position is new to AGAPE. Previously, the work done by a Director of Social Services was being carried out by Executive Director Kimberly Scott in addition to her responsibilities as director.

To delegate these responsibilities, Arnold, previously a social worker with AGAPE, began training in August to accept her upcoming role as Director of Social Services.

Arnold’s responsibilities include managing and directing AGAPE’s contracted social workers, facilitating intake of children from various counties, communicating with foster families regarding potential placements, keeping foster family files up to date, managing licenses, and being available to social workers if they need any assistance.

While Arnold admits this position has been a learning experience, her passion for the job and the people she works with is evident.

“I love it. I love being very personal and getting to know the all the social workers and so many families... I get to know them and talk with them”

In addition to working closely with social workers and families, Arnold also has a hand in deciding where a foster child should be placed, an aspect of her work that is new to this job.

Arnold explains that placing children is often a complex process; factors like age, location, family dynamics, and trauma history are all at play when she is making the decision of which family would best match a particular child.

“It’s like putting puzzle pieces together,” she remarks.

The job can be difficult, and Arnold does not shy away from this aspect of her position, explaining that getting placement calls and not being able to place children is one of the hardest parts of her job. She sees trauma and pain come through her email inbox regularly.

Despite this, Arnold says those heartbreaking emails and phone calls “remind me why I do what I do. It’s what makes me passionate about recruiting foster parents.”

This passion for children bleeds into Arnold’s personal life as well; she explains that her job has caused her and her husband to consider becoming foster parents, explaining that she cannot do the work she does and not take a moment to look at herself, to reflect on how she could be a potential solution to a problem.

When asked what she would tell potential foster parents who are afraid to take the first step into foster care, Arnold says:

“Trust in God. I know that’s so much easier to say than do... but there’s so much more reward when you take a leap of faith and go through the valleys... When you walk with these kids, when you are Jesus to them, when you come to the other side with them, you’re going to get the greatest reward.”

How Can My Church Serve Foster Children and Families?

Leah Tripp

While not everyone within a church will be called to be a full-time foster parent, there are other ways that your church can care for foster families and show Christ’s love to children in foster care. In addition to praying fervently for foster children and their families, churches can also serve in the following ways. 

Respite Care Teams

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Respite care providers are trained individuals who can offer babysitting services to full-time foster care parents. Respite care is important to the overall wellness of foster parents and their children, and provides a qualified, consistent support system for families. AGAPE of North Carolina offers training courses for respite parents. If someone in your church or small group is a full-time foster parent, consider supporting them through respite care. 

Mentoring

There are several programs in North Carolina and across the country that recruit mentors for older children and young adults in foster care. Mentors can make connections with foster youth and guide them in a variety of ways, including tutoring, job skills, college readiness, emotional wellness, and many other healthy lifestyle habits. Encourage your church family to serve foster children by signing up for a mentoring program. 

AGAPE of NC is licensing Young Adult Foster Homes that are in need of mentors from local congregations. To learn more about this opportunity, email Mary Arnold at marnold@agapeofnc.org. 

Care Packages

Care packages can be helpful for both foster children and potential foster families. There are a variety of organizations that sponsor care packages for children in care. Programs like Comfort Cases and Project Shoe Box provide care packages and/or suitcases with hygiene items, books, school supplies, and toys to children and youth in foster care. Churches can donate supplies and/or completed care packages to organizations such as these. 

Care packages can also be helpful for foster parents. Foster care placements can often come at short notice, which means new foster parents may be lacking in supplies for the child they just received. Consider having items like diapers, gift cards, and other necessities ready for any foster families in your community or congregation. 

The “Little Things” 

If there’s one thing I’ve heard consistently from my conversations with people involved in foster care, it’s that scheduling and time management can be really difficult. Foster parenting is a time commitment, which can make it easy for smaller tasks to fall to the wayside. If you know someone who is a foster parent, offer to bring them a hot meal, cut their grass, or pick up their groceries. Small acts of kindness go a long way, and there’s no telling how grateful someone will be to have the “little things” taken care of. 



What Happens After 18?: Aging Out of Foster Care

Leah Tripp

I remember the excitement I felt leading up to March of 2016.

I was turning 18, and I felt like I had the whole world in front of me. I was a senior in high school, I knew where I was going to college, and I felt like I had plenty of options open to me as I moved forward into legal “adulthood.”

18th birthdays should be full of promise and expectation, but for many young adults in America, turning 18 marks a time of great uncertainty.

Each year, over 23,000 children age out of the US foster care system.

Aging out of foster care can be traumatic for a variety of reasons. From a logistical standpoint, many children who age out of foster care become effectively homeless the day they turn 18 if they do not have a support system that is willing to provide them care and housing. According to the National Foster Youth Institute, homelessness impacts 20% of youth who age out of foster care.

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For those who avoid the immediate threat of homelessness, there are a range of other obstacles related to employment, education, and emotional health.

Youth who age out of foster care go to college at a significantly lower rate, as they may not have adults who are willing to guide them through application processes, academic requirements, and required testing.

Their lack of participation in post-secondary education is not due to lack of ability, but to lack of awareness.

In terms of employment, 50% of foster children who age out of the system will have gainful employment by the age of 24. Statistically, the other half of these youth will struggle to maintain stable jobs. The lack of consistent employment can contribute to cyclic patterns that keep foster youth from being able to own their own homes, pursue educational opportunities, or achieve career advancements.

Ultimately, foster youth are in great need of those willing to guide them, care for them, and invest in their lives and growth.

This care can come in the form of full-time foster parenting, mentoring, respite care, or volunteering.

Many Young Adult Foster Homes are beginning to address the challenges associated with aging out by providing care and guidance to foster youth ages 18-21.

These homes allow those who have technically “aged out” to have time to develop necessary skills and a support system in a familial setting.

If you are interested in learning more about helping foster youth, or about Young Adult Foster Homes, visit agapeofnc.org

Opening the Door: Young Adult Foster Homes

Leah Tripp

A home in Raleigh, North Carolina is seeking to meet a need that many do not realize exists within foster care: young adult foster homes. 

Mary Arnold, Director of Social Services for AGAPE of North Carolina, explained that while many people associate foster care with a 0-17 age bracket, they often “do not realize that there are 18 to 21 year olds in care that need a home as well.” 

The home in Raleigh seeks to meet this need by providing a foster home for 18-21 year old girls, hoping to give them stability and a jumping off point from which to pursue personal, educational, and career goals. 

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Currently, the home consists of a foster mother and two young women. Arnold makes monthly visits to the home, checking in with the girls and their foster mother. These visits consist of talking to the girls about various aspects of their lives, including schooling, employment, social adjustment, and the living situation within the house. 

While the house is technically a foster home, Arnold acknowledges that the day-to-day functioning of the home works differently since the residents are adults. Unlike younger foster children, the girls have the option choose this foster home. They have chosen to commit to living in the home, understanding that they have the freedom to “pack their bags and go.”

One of the most interesting aspects of young adult foster homes lies in the mutual investment of both parties; Arnold explains that girls can, and have, interviewed the foster mother and the managing foster care agency in order to determine whether or not the home is the right fit. The foster mother also has the opportunity to interview the girls as well, creating a mutual relationship of interest and understanding. 

Arnold also explains that the need for any and all foster parents is also growing, explaining that she has received quite a few calls regarding children as of late that she has not been able to accept or place due to the lack of available foster homes. 

Finally, when asked what she wants people to understand about young adults in foster care, Arnold states:

“They have so much to give. They are full of love, but they have been hurt, so there’s not a lot of trust there at first. But once you open the door to them, they have so much to give that it is endless. We need to support them so they can be the people that God created them to be.” 

ReMoved Part 3- Love is Never Wasted

The ReMoved films are produced by Nathanael & Christina Matanick, co-directed by Nathanael Matanickand Tony Cruz, and written by Christina Matanick. 

Little Kevi is torn from the only life he has ever known and struggles to make sense of how he fits between two worlds and two mothers. The 3rd in the ReMoved Series.

We all fell in love with Zoe from ReMoved 1 & 2. Now they tell a different story - to capture a broader range of the foster care experience.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fegRjSgRYX...

5 Myths About Foster Care

By Leah Tripp

The conversation surrounding foster care can often contain misconceptions or inaccuracies that can make fostering seem intimidating or impossible for potential foster parents. The following article will debunk five common myths associated with foster care. 

Myth 1: “I have to be married to foster a child” 

There is no marital requirement associated with foster parenting. In fact, according to The Foster Coalition, 30% of foster parents are single. Foster parents can (and do) come from a variety of backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and stages of life. To learn more about what AGAPE of NC requires of foster parents, click here

Myth 2: “I have to be wealthy” or “it’s expensive to adopt”

In contrast to some international and private domestic adoptions, the process of adopting through foster care is essentially free. Many agencies, such as AGAPE of NC, offer free trainings, financial reimbursement, and ongoing support for foster families. In addition, many states and government programs provide tax credits or reduced costs for foster children and their families.  

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Myth 3: “I have to be willing to adopt to be a foster parent”

While adoption can be an option for foster parents, it is not a requirement. The ideal goal for foster children is permanency, which can be found in the form of reunification with parents, kinship care, long-term fostering, or adoption. Respite care is also an option for individuals who are interested in providing short-term care only.  

Myth 4: “I need to have children/parenting experience” 

While parents with children are more than welcome to become foster parents, there are many foster parents who do not have children of their own, and have never parented prior to their participation in the foster care system. Many foster care organizations, including AGAPE, provide training for potential foster parents, as well as ongoing support groups and sessions for new foster parents.

Myth 5: “Foster parents have no say in which children are placed in their home”

Foster parents reserve the right to say “no” to any potential placement for any reason. AGAPE, and many other foster care agencies, also allow parents to express preferences regarding the children they feel comfortable accepting as placements. Foster parents will never be forced to accept a child into their care. 

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that there is no equation or situation that creates the “perfect” foster parent. Children in foster care need stability, compassion, and support. If you feel that you can provide a loving home for a child in foster care, please visit https://www.agapeofnc.org/foster-care/ or call AGAPE of NC at (919)673-7816. 

Prayer and Challenge for 2019

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By Kimberly Scott

Matthew 22:36-40 says “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” I started out with this verse because God’s hand has been in the hearts of fellow christians, of our communities, of commercial businesses and of our government by the ways that they’ve responded to the many natural disasters that have occurred this year.

Christians and communities alike have banded together to help the individuals/families/businesses that have been affected by fires in California, hurricane Michael, hurricane Florence, earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, flooding in Japan just to name a few for 2018. While these natural disasters have been physically devastating, it has also been a reminder of Gods spirit of love and compassion that has infected humanity across the world.

God used these events to remind us how tenuous our plans can be but also to remind us and the world of what really matters when others are hurting and in need.

Businesses and governmental aid have come to the rescue. Several well known businesses such as Wal Mart, Home Depot, GoFundMe, Starbucks and Walgreens are a few who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to disaster relief. Governmental agencies that are there at ground zero ready to lend aid, risk their lives and delve into danger for others include FEMA, the Red Cross and numerous First responders.

My prayer and challenge for 2019 is that, as quick and fierce as humankind rises to the challenge with the natural disasters that have been talked about above, they will see, they will feel and they will act for the devastation of parentless children and hurting families that are a part of the mission of AGAPE. Strengthening Families One Child at a Time.

The Power and the Impact of the Dave Thomas Foundation

By Jordan Upton

While most Americans are familiar with Dave Thomas and recognize him as the founder of fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s, many are unaware of his philanthropy. Thomas’ most passionate mission and the role he embraced the most was as an advocate for adoption and ensuring every child had a safe, loving, and permanent home.

Thomas was born in 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was adopted at six weeks old by Rex and Auleva Thomas. After his adoptive mother passed away when he was only five, Dave spent the majority of his childhood traveling the country with his father and spending summers with his grandmother, Minnie. Dave spent the rest of his life working in restaurants and eventually opening Wendy’s in 1969. Wendy’s would become a commercially successful restaurant and now has over 6,500 locations worldwide.

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While Dave had a passion for food, his greater passion was advocating for adoption and ensuring that all children had a loving home. Thomas established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992 as a national non-profit charity. It remains the only public non-profit in the United States focused exclusively on foster care adoption.

The Dave Thomas Foundation offers a variety of signature programs such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, which awards grants to local public and private agencies who are in turn able to hire adoption professionals who are able to place children on the longest-waiting placement lists into adoptive families. Another program includes Adoption-Friendly Workplace which works to make adoption an affordable option for working parents by establishing benefits, reimbursements, and financial aid for those who wish to adopt.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has funded nearly 400 adoption centers across the United States and Canada, helped co-found National Adoption Day, and as their mission statement says, “we strive to make the world a better place through foster care adoption” because the children in foster care “deserve nothing less than our best effort”.

https://www.wendys.com/daves-legacy

https://www.davethomasfoundation.org/

Anthony Pico's Story Featured on This American Life

By Jordan Upton

This American Life is a weekly radio show based out of Chicago. The program has been on the air since 1995 and has produced over 600 episodes, which are now aired on over 500 public radio stations across the United States with over 2 million listeners. Each episode typically consists of several stories from journalists, writers, comedians, and various others who share common themes, traits, or ideas. In an episode from August of 2007, the theme was “The Spokesman”. In it, four different stories are told about people being forced into a spokesman-like role, dramatically altering their lives plunging them out of common anonymity.

The second story shared on this episode focuses on Anthony Pico of California. Anthony was born into the foster care system after his mother, a crack addict fled the hospital after giving birth. Anthony never knew his father and therefore was shuffled from relative to relative, facing abuse and neglect along the way. At age 12 Anthony was adopted by a relative who cared for him, but after their death two years later he was forced back into the system. Then, at age 15 he was placed under the care of another relative who also passed away when Anthony was 17. The tragedies in Anthony’s life forced him to see the foster care system not only in California, which is the nation’s largest foster care system, but as a whole, and he saw it needed reform. So at age 15, Anthony began public speaking on behalf of foster care reform to judges, legislators, groups advocating for foster children, and anyone who would listen. And in 2006, Anthony was appointed by California's Chief Justice to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care in order to represent the youth voice in California's court.

In this story, which was recorded over ten years ago, the reporter with Anthony is Douglas McGray. McGray follows Anthony for weeks as he travels giving speeches on his life and background in the system. Anthony was 18 at the time and was living in a group home with other 18 year-olds who were about to age out of the system. McGray discusses the hardships of not only children in foster care but, specifically, the children who are about to age out of foster care. McGray discusses a massive study conducted by the University of Chicago that looked at this exact group. At the end of the year-long study, it was concluded that nearly 70% of these kids had dropped out of high school, half had lost their health insurance, half of the girls had gotten pregnant, 15% had been homeless, and 1 in 5 had been in jail.

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While Anthony is an advocate for all foster children, he himself is still a foster child. During the story, the listener is able to hear Anthony’s eloquent and powerful speeches to groups at lavish dinners, while also learning that Anthony has fallen behind in school. He is 18 and has gone to 6 different high schools over 4 years. He has fallen a full year behind and is not close to graduating. In an attempt to catch back up in school he enrolled in a six-week summer program but his public speaking caused him to miss orientation and his first full week of classes. The stark dichotomy of positive, confident speaker at elegant gatherings to the scared, frustrated 18-year-old kid trying to go to school is heartbreaking.

In the years since the story has aired Anthony has not only received his GED but also a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Loyola Marymount University and continues to be an advocate for reform in foster care and a mentor for those in the system.

Anthony’s story can be heard online for free at https://www.thisamericanlife.org/338/the-spokesman  For more information on Anthony Pico please visit http://anthonypico.com/bio/

Book Recommendation: Four Waifs on Our Doorstep

By Jordan Upton

Trisha Merry won a regional mother of the year competition and was titled “Mum in a Million” for her outstanding work as a foster care parent. Mrs. Merry has fostered over 700 children and adopted seven in her 50 years of experience.

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Mrs. Merry gained an excellent reputation as a foster care parent and was often the first call for emergency placements and large sibling groups. In 2015 she published a book, “Four Waifs on Our Doorstep” which described the last sibling group she and her husband fostered and eventually adopted.

Throughout the book, she voiced her frustration with certain authority figures who failed the children in her care. She constantly pushed them to do better, to keep her kids’ best interests at the forefront of all decisions. Using these difficult situations as more purpose for writing the book, Mrs. Merry explained:

“I’m hoping just one foster carer, just one adopter, one social worker, perhaps one social-work manager, one psychiatrist, one teacher, one whatever, will pick it up and read it and sit and think.”

While the book mentions some of the traumatic incidents that led to the children being placed in care and eventually on the adoption track, Mrs. Merry tried to keep the overall story hopeful and inspiring. She did not want to dwell on the kids’ past, but “loved being able to open their doors to life.” She focused on the future, the opportunities now available to those in her care.

When telling her now-adopted children about her reason for sharing their story, Mrs. Merry said:

“I would like a child who’s been in the care system, perhaps who’s just been kicked out at sixteen, to pick up our book and read it, and be inspired by how you’ve turned your lives around. I would like it to help them.”

For more information on “Four Waifs on Our Doorstep” see:

https://www.amazon.com/Four-Waifs-Doorstep-Trisha-Merry/dp/1471138453 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25325738-four-waifs-on-our-doorstep

A Reunification Story: We Just Hugged

By Jordan Upton

Bonnie Hendrix is now 30 years old. As we speak on the phone I hear the playful and raucous laughter of Bonnie’s two children, aged four and two, and Bonnie frequently has to take a sidebar from our conversation to answer questions posed by her curious kids. I was put in touch with Bonnie to hear and share her story. AGAPE has had a large impact on her life: she was adopted when she was two months old and recently was reunited with her birth mother.

Bonnie’s adoptive parents, Randy and Joyce, were on AGAPE’s Tennessee-based waiting list to be placed with a baby. When the couple heard no news of any children needing a home, they switched to AGAPE of North Carolina. After making this switch to the North Carolina branch, the couple was contacted about the birth of Bonnie while they attended a baseball game. Bonnie jokes “...it’s always funny I get to tell people that my mom was at a baseball game on my birthday.” This is one thing that surprised me while speaking with Bonnie about such intimate and dramatic details of her life: her unwavering sense of humor. The openness and willingness to discuss such events in her life with a relative stranger were both pleasantly surprising and uplifting.

Bonnie grew up in a happy home with Joyce and Randy as her adoptive parents. Two and a half years after taking Bonnie home, Joyce surprisingly became pregnant and the couple welcomed another girl into their family. Bonnie was raised knowing that she was adopted. Bonnie tells me how her mother explained to her that “I had not grown under her heart but in it”, and that her parents had always welcomed and supported Bonnie’s idea of finding her birth mother if she ever wished to do so. It is easy to see how caring and compassionate Bonnie’s parents are, especially considering how hard situations like those could be. Three years ago Bonnie decided to embark on that journey.

Bonnie contacted director of AGAPE, Kim Scott, who supported Bonnie’s search fully and helped in every way she could. Bonnie explains the process of filing the paperwork and sending in money to receive information on her birth mother. She was then told the information would take up to 90 days to find its way back to her. “I waited all summer and exactly on the dot 90 days later I got an email that said that they found her and that she really wanted to meet with me.” I asked if this 90 day wait was as grueling and stressful as I imagine it would be, to which Bonnie replied succinctly: “I immediately started freaking out”.

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The two decided to meet during Bonnie’s fall break because she is a teacher. Joyce (Bonnie’s adoptive mother), Bonnie’s husband, and her then two and a half year old and six month old kids made the trip to AGAPE of NC’s offices. Bonnie impatiently paced the waiting room for 45 minutes waiting on her birth mother to arrive. “She was running late...she was terrible at directions which made me laugh because I’m also terrible at directions” Bonnie tells me. And then she arrived. I could feel the tension as Bonnie was telling me the story and could only imagine how this moment would feel. I was anxious as to how this story would end. And then Bonnie tells me with all of the sincerity and simplicity she had exuded throughout our conversation: “We both just started crying as soon as we saw each other. And we just hugged and it was great”.

While this was the only time Bonnie and her birth mother, Wendy, have met in person, they maintain contact over the phone and the internet. Wendy lives in South Carolina while Bonnie and her family live in Tennessee. Wendy had two other daughters, making them Bonnie’s half-sisters, and while Bonnie has not met them in person they have been in touch using Facebook. As we end our conversation Bonnie tells me that this journey has been a “really great experience” and that by contacting her birth mother it has “benefitted my whole family and I make a lot more sense to myself now”.

I was privileged to hear Bonnie’s incredible and uplifting life story. AGAPE is honored to have had a part in placing Bonnie with her incredible adoptive parents as well as helping her contact and reunite with her birth mother.

Staff Profile: Meet Social Worker Marilyn Bredon

By Jordan Upton

When speaking with Marilyn Bredon, two things become apparent: her love of working with children and her faith in God. These pillars in her life led her, in January 2018, to join Agape of NC as a social worker II.

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Marilyn has been an advocate for children since she was a child herself. As a Christmas gift when she was young, Marilyn was given a doll and named it Baby Sister. She knows that her parents had entertained the idea of adoption on their own, but with her insistence of wanting a baby sister, they adopted a two year old girl when Marilyn was five. When completing the adoption paperwork, five year old Marilyn piped up to give their home address and phone number, feeling very included in her sister’s adoption.

Marilyn and her sister, like their parents before them, grew up in the Church of Christ. Marilyn participated in youth group, and when she was old enough she became a leader in the children’s church Sunday morning service. She was also a leader during Vacation Bible Schools and taught bible study. In college, she ran a “Mothers Morning Out” program. Marilyn’s work with children has truly been a lifelong calling.

After college, Marilyn moved to North Carolina with her husband. While living in Durham and working for Durham County Child Protective Services, they had three children. A job opportunity moved them to Virginia, where their fourth child was born. Marilyn swears this move was all God.

In Virginia, she was diagnosed with ocular cancer. She had an ocular melanoma wrapped completely around her optic nerve. Fortunately, one of the nation’s leading doctors with that expertise was working in Richmond. Marilyn was his last surgical patient. When the job opportunity turned out not to be what their family expected, and they moved back to North Carolina, Marilyn realized God’s real purpose in moving them to Virginia - that specific place at that specific time- was so this doctor could save her life. She has been cancer-free since 2001.

Upon their move back to North Carolina, Marilyn spoke with Nicole Spickard, whose father started AGAPE. She applied in the fall of 2017 and officially started work in January 2018.

There is no such thing as a typical day in her work. What families and children need may change every day, depending on who is involved and what is happening. She was the social worker for Salem House, and is currently working with two other families that are fostering children. She may be visiting, calling, texting, and/or emailing the foster parents on any given day to discuss the children in their care. If there are older teenagers currently in care, she’ll check in with them via texts and calls too. Marilyn also helps people who are working to become licensed foster parents or renew their licenses. Some days are hectic - like during the recent July Fourth holiday when she needed to find last minute respite care after late notice of closure from a daycare. But other days, like when she receives adorable school pictures of happy children in care, balance it out.

Frequently Asked Questions

By Jordan Upton

Are you or someone you know interested in becoming a foster parent? We at AGAPE would love for you to be involved! Before getting started, here are some general requirements and frequently asked questions that may help you make the amazing leap into the world of fostering.

General Requirements:

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●  You must be at least 21 years old. There is no top age limit.

●  You must be in good health.

●  If married, you must have been married for at least two years.

●  Both parents are allowed to work outside of the home.

●  You can be a single parent.

●  You must be a Christian.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Who are the children in need of foster care?

Children placed in foster care are those that are temporarily removed from their birth family. This is sometimes due to the child being in an unsafe environment where they have faced abuse or neglect. Or, the child could have been surrendered to an adoption agency and, while waiting for the legal process to be completed, need a temporary home with a foster family. Children’s ages can range from a few days old up to eighteen years old. Sometimes it is a single child in need of a home and sometimes it is an entire family. Occasionally some children face serious medical concerns or physical maladies. Most foster children have experienced great emotional or physical trauma, which makes the need for them to be placed in a loving, caring, understanding home even greater.

2. How long are these children in foster care?

While every situation is unique, the average time spent in foster care through AGAPE of N.C. is eight months. Some children will spend a few days with a foster family and others will spend a few years. Both during the licensure procedure and when a specific child is being presented to a foster family, the potential length of stay will be fully discussed, and the foster family will participate directly in making the decision of what is right for them. Foster care is by definition temporary, but the length varies with every child and his/her circumstances.

3. What happens if I become too attached to my foster child that I do not want to let them go?

Bonding and becoming attached is a natural and necessary part of fostering. Without these things, the child would feel unwanted and unloved. Foster families feel as if they are sending a piece of their heart with their foster child when they leave. This is an important part of the process and your caseworker is sensitive to this. AGAPE will help you prepare for this sense of loss and how to adjust after your foster child has left. AGAPE believes that God has given foster parents an even bigger heart so they are able to give so much of their love away to these children in need. If you feel as if you would be too easily attached to a foster child and would experience a tremendous loss when your foster child is placed in a permanent home, AGAPE feels as if you would be the best candidate to participate in this loving service.

4. What is involved in the licensure process?

AGAPE uses state regulations and agency policies to ensure prospective families are a right fit for becoming foster parents. Foster families submit an application and will be put in touch with a caseworker. This caseworker will begin the evaluation process and preparation period, usually lasting three months. Additionally, the caseworker will spend many hours interviewing the family in the AGAPE offices as well as in the potential family home. Home inspections and background checks are given. In the end, the caseworker will assign a specific number of foster children to the home (one to five), a specific age range (from birth to 18 years old), specific gender when applicable, and the family will be informed of any special needs or circumstances for the children if the family feels they are equipped to handle such situations.

5. What if I have never fostered before? How will I know what to do?

During the licensure process families will undergo a minimum of 30 hours of training for the specific type, situation, and age of children in which the family is placed. While fostering, the families also receive more training. Most importantly, the family is never on their own. Their caseworker is always available and will visit on a regular basis. Additionally, the AGAPE staff is on call and available 24 hours a day, ready and willing to help with any question or concern that arises.

6. Is this a paid or volunteer position?

This is strictly a volunteer-based process. The agency does provide a set reimbursement per month per child to cover expenses directly associated with the child. This money is not treated as income by the IRS and does not need to be reported since it is reimbursement of actual expenses. Foster families report that this is an adequate amount to meet basic needs. With older children, there is often a clothing allowance once or twice a year. The foster home is not responsible for medical expenses related to the child.

7. How can I get started?

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or have additional questions please contact AGAPE at 919-673-7816for a no obligation information meeting. This meeting will serve to help you “count the cost” of such service, and to decide if this is right for your family. At that time an application will be made available to you. Please visit AGAPE’s website at www.agapeofnc.orgfor more information and subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with news and relevant information.

My Reflective Experiences with AGAPE

By Jordan Upton

As the school year begins again and my summer interning with AGAPE of N.C. draws to a close, I felt it would be appropriate to reflect on my experiences working with the organization. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the privilege of working with AGAPE. Everyone involved with the organization is compassionate, helpful, knowledgeable, and each person cares about the work they do and the children they help. This is true about every staff member from the social workers such as Marilyn Bredon, to the Board of Directors members like Joe Hall, to the executive director Kim Scott.

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Not only do the staff members work tirelessly to promote the mission of AGAPE, but the volunteers, donors, and community members work just as hard and are just as passionate about helping children find loving homes. Take 11-year-old Meredith Finch, for example, who began selling lemonade in her town to raise money to donate to AGAPE. People like that are special, and they recognize that the people at AGAPE are special, too.

When I began working with AGAPE, I had not heard of them and I knew very little about adoption and foster care experiences. Now, by having spoken with those who have adopted, been adopted, and foster children themselves, I have grown a deep appreciation and respect for these people.

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to get to know everyone involved with AGAPE, and for all of the people I was able to speak with who were so open and honest about their experiences, and for the chance to share their stories with the public. I only hope I was able to convey their messages and stories in a meaningful way and that they were heard and appreciated by those who read them as much as I appreciated hearing and sharing them. I am excited about the future of AGAPE and can not wait to see what the future has in store for everyone involved.