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.”

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.” 

Young Adult Foster Homes

By Mary Arnold

We are committed to providing these young women with the support they need to assist them in becoming the independent, strong women that God created them to be (Psalm 139:13).

Have you ever wondered what happens to teens when they turn 18 and “age out” of the foster care system?
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 provided a provision that allows states to receive federal money for programs associated with supporting young adults who choose to remain in foster care up to the age of 21. North Carolina is one of 25 states to extend foster care beyond 18 years of age.

AGAPE of NC opened Young Adult Foster Homes in October of this year for young ladies aged 18-21. We are committed to providing these young women with the support they need to assist them in becoming the independent, strong women that God created them to be (Psalm 139:13).

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The young ladies will all be working on different goals while residing at Young Adult Foster Homes. Some will be finishing up high school. Others will be going to college or working to save money to buy a car or rent their own place to live.

Ms. Fay Evans, who has a passion for helping young women and assisting them with the transition to the next phase of their lives, is our resident Foster Parent for our Young Adult Foster Homes located in Raleigh. Ms. Evans has worked with teen girls for over 20 years. She prays for each girl daily -- those who are in her care and those who will be coming into her care. She prays for God’s direction and wisdom in leading the young ladies toward independence.

AGAPE needs additional women volunteers for Young Adult Foster Homes. Ms. Evans will need respite care providers for the home, and we would also like to have mentors from congregations in the area for each young girl. If you have an interest in volunteering at Young Adult Foster Homes please contact Mary Arnold by email at: marnold@agapeofnc.org or by phone at: 919.673.7816.

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. 

Appreciation for Volunteers and Ways to Get Involved

We are extremely grateful for the work our volunteers perform and the ways they minister to AGAPE of NC! We try to make each volunteer’s experience enjoyable by offering opportunities that match individual skills, interests, and passions.

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Some of our current volunteer projects involve working “behind the scenes,” helping with many administrative tasks while other volunteers take on jobs where they may become a “face and spokesperson” for AGAPE. Areas where AGAPE heavily relies on our wonderful volunteers include:

Foster Care Backpack Volunteers

These folks organize donation drives; collect, inventory and store donations; periodically coordinate a group to fill AGAPE’s backpacks with those donations; and deliver the filled AGAPE backpacks to Department of Social Services Offices in various counties a few times a year.

Beth Storms, Kenitra Williams, Teresa Jenkins, and Carol Woollens (together with a lot of other helpful servants) have been instrumental in helping us to grow this ministry.

Newsletter Contributors

We are always looking for newsletter content and welcome anyone who has a foster care and/or adoption story to write and submit an article. We express appreciation to some of our recurring authors: Kia Carter, Erica Asbury, Lydia Huth, Beth Storms, and Jordan Upton.

Time and talents shared by Angela Hardison are also invaluable. For the last couple of years, she has diligently worked on lay out, editing, and printing of AGAPE’s newsletters.

Mail Distribution Administrators

Although AGAPE delivers our newsletter & other information via email to those of you who have e-subscribed, the numberof people interested in AGAPE continues to grow. So, we still send a lot of mail through the postal service.

We appreciate Latrelle Dechene, Mallory Scott, and JaimeTodd for all their work stuffing, folding, stickering, labelling, stamping, and going to the Post Office.

Event Planners & Hospitality Coordinators

Volunteers from all over North Carolina coordinate AGAPE events at their churches and in their communities to raise awareness about the needs of the children, teens and families AGAPE serves. We recognize we could not do it without these tireless individuals.

If you would like to Volunteer with AGAPE of NC in one of the capacities described above, or if you have other ideas about ways you want to get involved, please contact Kaye Orander at korander@agapeofnc.org or 919-810-7178. She would love to talk with you about having a vital impact on AGAPE’s mission to serve children and families in North Carolina.

Why We Do Respite

Your donations support and equip foster families in your community who are opening their loving, Christian homes right now to children in need. Other Christian families assist them in this mission work by occasionally providing respite. Please watch & listen as the Williams family shares why they became Respite Providers.

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.

Higher Education for Foster Care Youth

By Jordan Upton

Research has shown that youth in foster care are less likely to continue on to college compared to other high school graduates. Of those who do enroll in college, many do not make it through to obtain a degree.

In efforts to help boost student success, programs such as NC Reach have been established. NC Reach is a state-funded scholarship offered to qualified applicants for up to 4 years of undergraduate study at any of the 74 NC public colleges and universities. Qualified applicants are North Carolina residents, and were either adopted from the NC Division of Social Services (DSS) foster care after the age of 12 or aged out of NC DSS foster care at age 18.

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In addition to scholarship funds that cover tuition and fees, NC Reach provides emotional supports that students may not otherwise have in their personal lives. Students are matched with a coordinator who helps them academically and personally navigate higher education. They can also request a personal coach, or mentor, who will be there to support and encourage them throughout their collegiate experience. Students will receive three care packages per year and are eligible to participate in the Foster Care to Success InternAmerica Program.

Programs such as NC Reach are making higher education more attainable for all students.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/12/07/for-foster-care-kids-college-degrees-are-elusive http://www.ncreach.org

Helping School-aged Children in Care

By Jordan Upton

Did you know. . .

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●  Children in foster care are far more likely to change schools during the school year, to be in special education classes, and to fail to receive passing grades than their general population counterparts.

●  High school dropout rates are 3 times higherfor foster youth than other low-income children

●  Only about 50% of youth in foster care will graduate from high school

●  Over 40% of school-aged children in foster care have educational difficulties

How can you help?

●  Donate school supplies so that students are well-prepared and have one less worry

●  Become a school volunteer to support and encourage youth in the classroom

●  Offer tutoring services for struggling students

●  Become a foster parent and advocate for the most vulnerable children every day

If you’d like to get involved and help promote the educational success of these children, please contact AGAPE today!

Facts from the National Foster Youth Institute: https://www.nfyi.org/issues/education/

How Teachers Can Help

By Jordan Upton

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With 70% of children in foster care being of school age, what can teachers do to help?

There is a chance that teachers will not know if any of their students are in foster care or have been adopted, but there are general steps they can take to ensure the safety and happiness of each student in their classroom, regardless of their home life.

  1. Normalize Foster Care and Adoption

    Teachers can incorporate books and lessons that talk about foster care and adoption. Making students aware of different family arrangements and living situations can help any potential foster or adopted children feel more comfortable talking to their teachers, peers, and school administration.

  2. Learn About Student Backgrounds

    Learning about each student in the classroom can help teachers better meet each student’s individual needs. Many students who have been in foster care will experience learning difficulties from shuffling schools and missing too many days. Understanding the reasons behind each child’s difficulties can help teachers create better plans to engage these students.

  3. Build Relationships

    Quickly building positive relationships with students can help them gain self-confidence and feel secure in your classroom. It will be helpful for students, especially those who have traumatic lives outside of school, to know that someone cares for them. Since teachers see their students five days a week, it is important for the students to have trust and respect for this important role model.

  4. Become an Advocate

    Some recommend that teachers become licensed foster parents to better understand what these students may be facing. Teachers who are licensed foster parents may be able to ease the transitions by fostering students from their school, so the students would not have to relocate and potentially fall behind. They could offer a sense of stability. If becoming a licensed foster parent is not possible, teachers could still advocate for training and education for all school personnel to be better equipped to deal with students in foster care and their specific needs.

5 Ways Teachers Can Help https://www.thornwell.org/5-ways-teachers-can-help-students-foster-care/

10 Ways Teachers Can Help http://redtri.com/10-ways-teachers-can-help-students-from-foster-care/slide/1

North Carolina Foster Youth and School

By Jordan Upton

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Children entering foster care are dealing with drastic changes in their home lives. They are usually removed quickly and have experienced some sort of trauma. 70% of children in care are of school age. In his article, Foster Youth & School: The Ongoing Struggles, Dr. John DeGarmo explains that these children “often miss a great deal of school, as their foster parents and case workers attend to duties such as enrolling the child into school, meeting with counselors and psychologists, and giving the child time to adequately adjust to the new living situation.”

On the UNC School of Government blog, assistant professor Sara DePasquale writes about the impact of school mobility: “Children in care who transfer schools lose four to six months of academic progress with each change in school placement. Children in foster care are more likely to be retained, suspended, and/or expelled; drop out; and perform poorly on standardized tests. In addition to the academic disruption, children who move schools also lose natural supports that exist in their original school, such as siblings, peers, or trusted adults like teachers, counselors, and/or coaches.”

In April 2017, the North Carolina DHHS Division of Social Services implemented an educational stability policy for children in foster care. It requires that every child in the custody of NC welfare agencies must have a plan for educational stability that addresses school stability, school enrollment, educational needs and services, and documentation regarding educational stability. The family services manual explains:

“Educational stability promotes educational success so children in agency custody continue their education without disruption, maintain important relationships, and have the opportunity to achieve college and career readiness. The emphasis of this policy is to minimize the number of school changes for each child and when a school change is unavoidable ensure each child is enrolled in a timely manner. Decisions regarding educational stabilitymust be based on what is in each child’s best interest.”

While there are always improvements to be made, this policy is a step in the right direction for caring for North Carolina’s youth in foster care and their educational needs.

https://www.fosterfocusmag.com/articles/foster-youth-school-ongoing-struggles https://civil.sog.unc.edu/school-stability-for-children-in-foster-care/ https://www2.ncdhhs.gov/info/olm/manuals/dss/csm-10/man/1201sXIII.pdf

Why You are So Important!

By Kimberly Scott

Director of AGAPE of NC

In 2017, experts warned that North Carolina’s foster care system is in a predicament. The state’s Division of Social Services began noticing in late 2012 that the number of children coming into foster care was exceeding the number exiting the system. With over 11,000 children in NC already in foster homes, our foster care rate is reportedly the highest it has been in the last 10 years and is steadily rising. Many causes factor into the situation:

  • physical and mental trauma, abuse or neglect;

  • parental substance abuse, including the opioid crisis

    we hear so much about;

  • parental incarceration;

  • a reduction in federal funds for mental health services.

    The bottom line is that the number of children currently in our North Carolina foster care system is rising faster than the number of foster families available to support them. It is AGAPE’s Christ-focused mission to fill as much of that gap as possible with Christian counseling and foster homes where these children will be loved and come to know Jesus.

At present, AGAPE of NC has over 30 kids in care with our 25 foster families. Thankfully, we are blessed with another 25 new families pursuing licensure right now. We also have at least a dozen families providing respite foster care. But AGAPE needs more of YOU because the children need more from us.

So, when AGAPE of NC asks YOU to

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  • consider becoming a foster parent or a respite care provider;

  • donate items or funds needed to supply SALEM HOUSE;

  • start saving your spare change now because AGAPE’s 3rd Annual CHANGE FOR LIFE! fundraising campaign will kick off in September 2018;

  • volunteer your time & talents; and

  • pray for AGAPE and those who need us...

    know it is ALL for the children and families God wants us to serve. “And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Staff Profile: Meet AGAPE of NC's Director, Kim Scott

By Jordan Upton

Executive Director Kimberly Scott knows that her involvement with AGAPE was not her plan, but God’s. As a young girl, Kim often told her family that she wanted a job for God, and took comfort in her mother’s response that “we all have a job for God.” This thinking led her to a life of service and helping others.

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Originally from Texas, Kim earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her husband, an engineer, received calls from headhunters and was offered jobs around the world. She was pregnant when her husband asked if she’d rather move to North Carolina or Germany. With two toddlers and another baby on the way, Kim thought it best to stay in the States. She envisioned the move to North Carolina as a starting point for a life of travel; they would stay a couple years then check out other places. But things don’t always go as we plan, and 19 years later Kim is still enjoying life in NC.

After relocating to NC, Kim was lucky to stay home with her children until they all began school. At that time, she started her own private practice. One day, her minister walked into the office with a new client. Until then, her minister didn’t know that she was a licensed clinical social worker. After seeing her practice and learning of her qualifications, Kim’s minister approached her about AGAPE. He was on the organization’s board of directors and the search committee for a new executive director.

Kim wasn’t looking for a job. She had been in practice for years and had about 15 people working for her. She said, “I was doing great where I was,” and even joked, “I had a great boss - me!”
But after several interviews where she learned more about the meaning and mission of AGAPE, Kim found herself thinking ‘if they’ll have me, I am here.’ When they officially offered her the position of executive director in October 2013, Kim said, “Of course! Of course, I’m going to take this job. No, wasn’t even an option.”

Nearly five years into her role as executive director, Kim says, “I feel truly blessed to be part of this organization, and just to be able to be part of people’s lives in such a profound way.”

Kim has a hand in every aspect of AGAPE - making presentations about foster care, raising awareness, recruiting foster families and board members. She manages the staff and helps with financial planning. She receives calls daily about kids needing placement and works to find a match for them. In short, she does everything she can to fulfill AGAPE’s mission of strengthening families through compassionate Christian outreach.

"First-Night in Foster Care" Backpack Blessings

By Beth Storms

AGAPE Backpack Coordinator

Since January 2018, AGAPE Volunteers have delivered 100“ first-night in foster care” backpack to Department of Social Service offices in 5 North Carolina counties! The DSS workers have expressed gratitude for AGAPE’s outreach to ease the transition for children entering foster care. They tell our Backpack Distributors stories illustrating how important AGAPE’s “comfort bags” are to these kids at one of the most difficult times in their lives.

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To prepare for the next round of deliveries, AGAPE urged a few churches to hold a Backpack Donation Drive in March and April and a “packing” party was held on the heels of that drive. Your kindness has enabled another 194 backpacks to be filled and ready to go (with several leftover items, just in need of blankets, to fill more)!

Thank you to members from the following congregations who generously donated during our Spring 2018 Backpack Donation Drive: Biltmore Church of Christ, Asheville, NC; Cary Church of Christ, Cary, NC; Deep River Church of Christ, High Point, NC; Jericho Church of Christ, Mocksville, NC; Brooks Avenue Church of Christ, North Raleigh Church of Christ, and Raleigh Church of Christ, Raleigh, NC. We also want to thank an individual Friend outside of these fellowships who donated beautiful homemade blankets along with other items. We deeply appreciate ALL the Church Leaders and Volunteers who promote this AGAPE Ministry; collect, organize, store and transport donated items; and deliver these first response backpacks to DSS!

Book Recommendation: Another Place at the Table

By Jordan Upton

Kathy Harrison used to struggle for an answer to the common question, “What do you do?” After decades of experience, Kathy now has a ready reply: “I do some writing and some teaching, but my important job is being a foster mother.”

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Kathy explores her family and life choices in her highly rated book, Another Place at the Table. Published in 2003, the book details many of Kathy’s experiences fostering children in need. At the time of publication, she had fostered 100 children. Now in 2018, she has fostered 153.

In her book, Kathy describes how she found her calling to “offer a small island of safety in an unsafe and terrifying world.” After raising three biological sons, Kathy went to work in a Head Start program. She dealt daily with children in need, seeing them placed in foster care and fast-tracked for adoption. She and her husband decided to foster-to-adopt a pair of siblings from the Head Start program, after which Kathy began her full-time commitment to foster care. “I chose to devote myself to caring for the state’s neediest children,” she wrote.

Kathy and her husband were awarded Massachusetts Foster Parents of the Year in 1996. In 2002 they were awarded the Goldie Rogers Memorial Award for embodying Goldie’s ‘spirit of dedication and commitment to foster parenting and advocacy efforts’. In 2003, Kathy was featured as one of People magazine’s ‘Heroes Among Us’.

Another Place at the Table is an excellent read for current foster parents, those considering becoming a foster parent, and those who are curious to know more about the system in general. Kathy writes about heartbreaking situations and difficult children but manages to keep a positive attitude and a sense of hopefulness. She believes in the goodness of people and the ability to make a positive impact on children’s lives through patience and compassion. Through her writing, Kathy empowers readers to “live a life that matters, a life that makes a difference”.

Read reviews and see why Another Place at the Table has been rated 4.2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/391081.Another_Place_at_the_Table

Read more about Kathy Harrison here: http://www.helpourkidsinc.org/foster-hero-kathy-harrison/

Board of Directors Profile: Meet Vice Chairman Joe Hall

By Jordan Upton

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AGAPE of North Carolina could not run as efficiently or productively if it were not for the help of our amazing and diverse staff, volunteers, and board members. The board of directors is made up of various members of the community who help maintain AGAPE’s pursuit of excellence. Each of these members bring a unique yet equally important aspect to the organization, which allows growth, new perspectives, and expert problem solving. The board is made up of various positions, each of which holding a particular purpose and integral for the board to function well. The positions rotate every few years allowing for new faces and fresh ideas to be brought to these posts. The members of the board, who live across parts of North Carolina and in various states across the U.S., meet quarterly either in person or via teleconference to discuss the future plans with AGAPE and to ensure the organization is running at its highest potential.

One of these board members is Mr. Joe Hall, of Claremont, North Carolina. Mr. Hall is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Air Force. After spending 20-plus years traveling the country, Joe and his wife of 34 years, Cathy, ended up in Kansas. There, the couple with their two biological children, fostered a two-month-old daughter, Kimi. Shortly after, Kimi had three other siblings brought in to be fostered by the Hall family. Three years later, all four children were adopted by Joe and Cathy. The family then moved to North Carolina where Joe teaches JROTC at Bunker Hill High School.

Lt. Col. Hall became involved with AGAPE after viewing a presentation former Director Tom Slaughter made at a church service one morning recruiting potential volunteers, foster families, donors, and sharing the message of AGAPE. Shortly after Joe became a board member where he has now served in various capacities including Vice Chairman and Chairman over the past seven years.

AGAPE is blessed to have people such as Lt. Col. Hall be a part of our organization and thank him and his family, as well as families like his, for all of the work they do for AGAPE.