Loving Strangers: Providing Help to Families in Crisis

The Need is Real

A momma goes to the ER with her four children. She has no one else to watch them, but she needs medical care. The doctors agree, and she is admitted to the hospital; the children roam the halls and nap the first night, but by the second day when it is clear that momma needs more care, the children need someone to watch them as well. She pleads with the hospital staff that there is no one to watch the children. The hospital social workers are at an impasse: the county is called; the children need to be turned over to their custody.

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Better Together

Recently I stood above a dance floor to take a photo and was taken back by the scene.

I spent a brief moment there, allowing myself to soak it all in. The song, “Shout!”, by the Isley Brothers was playing loudly. It was a crowd favorite, and it showed!

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Back to School: Advocating for Your Child with Special Needs

Summer is winding down, and kids across America are gearing up for the return to school.  This can bring some challenges and anxiety for both the kids and the parents, and these feelings can be magnified if your child has needs that are not typical.  Parents of children with sensory, learning, and attention exceptionalities often have to navigate a new school year with new teachers, different physical spaces, and most likely a new mix of classmates within a classroom.  Many children who come from places of trauma and loss need their parents (biological, adoptive, and/or foster parents) to help them with this transition and continue to advocate for them as the school year progresses. Here are some proactive and reactive steps parents can take to support your child.

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Supporting Foster Families: Act Instead of Ask

Questions, questions, and more questions.

When you step into the world of foster care, you’re stepping into the great unknown. You don’t know when the phone will ring asking you to take a placement. You don’t know how much time you’ll have to prepare for that placement. You don’t know the child, the case, the issues, or the outcome. You just don’t know.  And for those of us who have said yes to being foster parents, we’ve learned this is a part of our journey.

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The Open Table

I heard about the Open Table model a few years ago through the OrphanCare ministry of North Way Christian Community.

It’s a national model for providing small group support to a Brother or Sister functioning without a network or resources to move forward. I saw it as an opportunity to mentor someone but with other adult support… meaning all the responsibility wasn’t solely mine!

“Igniting human potential is simple: Relationship.”

Our Table of 6 adults met weekly for 1 year with our Sister, a 19 year old woman who had been on her own for several years. Our Sister set the goals for what she wanted to achieve in our time together and then as a Table we worked with her to help her achieve those. Relationships grew out of our meetings and we became a family. We shared meals, birthdays, shopping trips, prayer requests, countless text messages and so much more.

Was it all perfect? No…but what family is!?

 

While our official time to meet as a Table has ended, our relationships have not.

“95% of Table participants have long term relationships with one or more of their former Table members.”

I couldn’t be more proud of our Sister and all she’s accomplished. She is so smart and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. She’s been through so much and yet she remains positive and loves to encourage others. I feel privileged to have been a part of her journey and can’t wait to see all that the Lord has in store for her.

Learn more about The Open Table at the Imagine Conference!


Debi Coglianese, Wexford Campus Manager of North Way Christian Community and Open Table Volunteer


“Open Table’s faith-based model draws together the community and relationship life of congregations around the country. It provides technical support, training, structure, process.
Each Table is composed of a group of volunteers that make a year-long commitment to act–through relationship—as a team of life specialists, encouragers, and advocates. Over the course of a year, the Table works together to set goals, foster accountability, and implement a plan to create change.”

theopentable.org

 

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I Embrace Grace

I embrace grace because two pink lines changed my life sooner than I could have imagined.

We were unwed and unworthy. And because some of the women in my family had a history of leaving, the thought of those genes coursing through my body made me ache for the growing baby inside me.

 

I embrace grace because on December 4th, 2013, God gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine – Harlow Rose. My love for her was endless and I knew in that instant that He took away all of my fears about becoming her mother.

Because of her I also came to know of HIS love for ME.


I embrace grace because I can see how God has worked through her in our lives – to pull us in, to heal wounds, restore relationships, encourage prayer, give grace, and to have childlike faith. He made my heart break for other mamas who would go through unexpected pregnancies – the questioning and the feeling alone – I would go on to help lead Embrace Grace and walk alongside some of these amazing mamas and welcome their sweet babies.

 

 

I embrace grace because God has moved mountains for my family – through different states and jobs and another beautiful baby girl.

I can see all of our days and trials sewn together with His goodness and love and grace.

 

I embrace grace because God willing, I wake up to a pitter patter of footsteps each and every day. Or a ‘mama’ overheard on a monitor. I wake up knowing that no matter what the day before may have held, God’s grace comes in an abundance – and He will continue to provide for me if I lay it all down for Him.

Unplanned pregnancies aren’t easy. Motherhood is not easy.

It takes a village. Let’s BE that village.

 

I embrace grace because through the eyes of my children I have realized that

I AM worthy because I AM His.

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Grace and Embrace Life groups are happening all over the world!  Young women with unplanned pregnancies are receiving incredible love, support, and encouragement right inside the walls of the church.  Learn more about your local Embrace Grace and Embrace Life groups at the Imagine Conference.


 

Desiree Eonta, Embrace Grace of North Way Christian Community

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Other 95%

How the Whole Church Can Live Out Christ’s Love in Foster Care and Adoption

I once heard a friend ask, “Where is the Church in foster care and adoption?” She wondered how it was possible that her family felt so alone in it’s obedience to God’s call for them to foster hurting children. The children she, and many others are serving have faced unspeakable trauma, have lost the only moms and dads they’ve ever known, and often struggle to figure out which end is up. No one living out Christ’s calling to love his neighbor in this way should be left standing alone asking, where are all the Christians?

But you say you don’t feel called to foster or adopt. But what if my friend (and Scripture) isn’t necessarily asking you to foster or adopt? Look with me at James 1:27,

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (emphasis added)

Did you see it? God’s word tells us that we should live out our worship through the tangible acts of visiting orphans.

Statistics tell us that only about 5% of the United States’ population will foster or adopt. That number isn’t much higher within the Church. And while we need many more Christian foster and adoptive homes, not every Christian should be a foster or adoptive parent. But every adoptive and foster family already engaged needs the body of Christ standing around them in this journey.

Families who are engaging on the front lines of caring for children from hard places bear a heavy weight. It’s a load they carry with humility and joy knowing that this is cross-bearing love—partnering with the Great Redeemer who wants to see healing and restoration for these children. But it’s still a front-line, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical battle. And like any soldier, they shouldn’t be going into battle alone.

When foster and adoptive families step into the brokenness with a child, they need to feel the arms of the other 95% of Christians wrapping around them. So practically speaking, what does this mean to you?

If you don’t know a foster or adoptive family personally:
-Connect with a ministry that is offering adoptive and foster families free childcare. Childcare and respite is one of the most requested areas of help from foster and adoptive families. This could be as simple as serving with our OrphanCare Ministry that offers free respite nights for foster and adoptive parents 6 times a year. Get your clearances, and join us as we play kickball, do crafts, or rock babies. These moms and dads desperately need a breather to reconnect and invest in their marriage.
-Sign up to be a Family Friend through the Safe Families for Children Program. This will allow you to be paired with a specific adoptive family so that you can offer ongoing respite. Just invite a child to join your family for a few hours a couple of times a month. It can make a world of difference to a mom or dad. Parenting is hard, and parenting kids who have walked through trauma is quite different than parenting kids who have always known consistency, safety, love, and food. Your commitment to come alongside a family in a consistent way could bring unspeakable hope to them in the day-to-day.
-Donate – Adoption is expensive, and foster parents are often met with unexpected and sometimes immediate needs. Organizations such as Foster Love Project or adoption funds through OrphanCare or Gregory’s Gift are meeting the tangible needs of Pittsburgh-area families.

If you do know someone who is fostering or adopting:
-Bring meals (and some for their freezer too!) Foster parents often accept children with very little notice. They have court hearings that don’t run on schedule, countless therapy appointments to help kids heal, and often are transporting the children in their home to visit with their biological families. Having someone they can call to bring a meal (even if it’s from a restaurant or frozen from a grocery store!) is a real blessing.
-Mow the grass, do a load of laundry, etc. Adding a child to your family changes everything. Sometimes the list of every-day tasks that need to be completed is daunting while you’re in the middle of a period of adjustment. Pitch in everywhere you can.
-Babysit. Foster and adoptive parents are required to attend extensive and ongoing training classes to prepare them for the realities of caring for children from hard places. They may have court hearings they need to attend, therapy appointments, and be transporting kids to visits with their mom and dad. If the family has other children in the home, they need you to show up in a big way so they can juggle it all. And quite frankly, they probably need a date night, too. Ask what clearances and training you may need, get them (it’s not hard), and then watch their kids.
-Send an encouraging note and include a gift card to a local restaurant. Some days are just hard. Blessing a foster or adoptive family with a chance to eat out, or order in, and know they are being prayed for can be a bright spot in their week.
-Celebrate them and their children (no matter how old the child is!) Imagine all the ways you’d be excited to welcome a baby into a friend’s family when she announces she is pregnant. Now do the same things for your foster and adoptive friends.

I had another conversation with a friend recently who just started her fostering journey. She received her first placement, an infant, with little notice. The first night a friend dropped off a Pack ‘n Play, a bassinette, and other baby gear. Another friend asked if she needed infant clothes. Another offered childcare for the children in their home while they were attending the court hearings for their foster baby, while another mom listened as she poured out her heart about the emotional rollercoaster of the first few days. Her response: it’s been amazing to see God meet our needs and feel the love of friends in this journey.

Church, this is living out Christ’s call to love. Let’s make my last friend’s story a reality for every foster and adoptive family in our circle. May no one ever stand on the front line, answering Christ’s call, and say, “Where’s the Church?” Let’s live out our worship in these tangible ways.

Register for the Imagine Conference


Erin Brothers, Co-Director, OrphanCare Ministry of North Way Christian Community

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