Foster Care – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

Foster Care

The unexpected story God writes (Story 41 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). Today, Amanda Beery, Encourage foster parent, shares her family’s journey of foster care to adoption and how God has transformed her heart through a relationship with a birth mom. In story #41 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Amanda invites us to respond to others the way God first loved us, and then let Him write your story.

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31

A relationship opportunity that is often overlooked is that of a biological family and the foster family caring for their children. In the beginning of my journey to adopting, I didn’t want any part of this relationship, much less to understand its importance. I stepped onto the path of fostering after a two-year journey of private infant adoption. I came with a heart confident of the call to adopt, but opposed to seeing it happen through foster care.

After many prompts that private infant adoption was not the road for our family, we saw God placing foster care in our path from every angle. Out of obedience we stepped into foster care broken and needing it more than it ever needed us. Now, over two years in, we see so many reasons why we were led down this path. We have witnessed God’s reckless love and abundant redemption soak our sin-stained hearts. We have been mended in places we never realized were broken and stretched in ways we never thought possible. We have been able to serve in this way because of God’s grace. He has made it possible for His glory.

I have been blessed to receive the love of Christ into my heart as a 10-year-young girl. The reality of what the cross has done for me is the reason I cannot hold the sin of another over them. The only difference between me and the families I have served to this point is they just don’t yet know Who chose them, placed them in time, and said they were worth it. Their foundation has not yet been built in relationship with the Father Who calls them blessed and worthy. And so, they find me receiving their babies, the broken hallelujah of our reality.

Our lives were forever changed August 11, 2017 when a nurse placed our Ever girl in my arms. Nearly three months old with so much life ahead of her, yet so much she would soon leave behind. That day we became a family for a number of days that were then unknown. I looked at my husband and said, “I do not know how to do this. I don’t know if I am what she needs.” What I failed to trust was that God knew what she needed. He chose me as her mother, just as He chose her first mom. He knew that the weaving of threads, not bloodlines, would make us a family.

I was kind to her mama, but I was not fully free to love her the way I love family. I held her at arm’s length as I erected a wall around my heart in hopes it would keep me from breaking. I looked at our daughter through protector eyes and failed to look at her mama through God’s eyes. Over time God reminded me that loving Ever girl meant loving her first mama with abandon, as a sister and a friend. After all, He redeemed me from my broken places, wouldn’t He do it again? Loudly and clearly, He asked me to break down the walls and open my eyes to see that this road was never just about loving a baby. It was about pouring out the love He has poured in me to the point of empty. He reminded me what He values, birth families included. Just as He rescued me, He came to rescue them. How do these families become rescued if we reserve the love He has poured out on us? His love is measureless. It runs the oceans deep and will never come up empty.

“Family is not determined by blood but by those who are willing to hold your hand when you need it the most. You have been that since the day I had the honor of becoming part of your family (even though we didn’t know it at the time)!”

Ever girl’s birth mama shared those words with me nearly two years after we first met. Those words are a reminder that loving God back looks a lot like loving His future kids. Countless emails, quotes and words about value and worth have been the very core of what drove Ever’s mama and me together as friends, as family. I needed to first know my own worth, then to value others, and that began in relationship with the Father. That is all anyone is really looking for, to be loved, wanted and chosen. Not just foster children, but their birth family regardless of where we land in the case plan.

A year after we brought our girl home, God began to forge a path in our family that led my husband to search for his birth mom. As a former foster youth, his life was transformed by a relationship with God, and again by saying yes to fathering children in foster care. Meeting my husband’s mom for the first time, and our three sons meeting the other half of their biology almost a decade into life for some of them, I grew to see the importance of the relationship between biological families and foster families.

Not every season and every case are created equal, but if given the opportunity to build a bridge with bio families, I encourage you to take the first step. It has forever changed the dynamics of our family and the way we do life. It has drawn a map straight to our hearts about forgiveness, redemption and purpose in the pain. Because we said yes to foster care, we are saying yes to the unexpected story God has written. For nearly two years, she fought to hold title and position as her mother, but then, out of strength and sacrifice, she chose to give her daughter a life beyond what she could offer. In relinquishing custody of her girl, she gained a whole family. Real healing can begin in relationship, even when life looks messy.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” -Ezekiel 36:26

God transforms and renews. Our response is to love others the way He first loved us. He removed my heart of stone to bring me into a space of expansive living for Him, for our kids and for their families.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

He’d been there all along (Story 40 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). This year has been filled with so many stories of healing and redemption that God has orchestrated together over five decades of ministry. Heather Knapik, residential alum, wife, mom and foster mom, shares her personal testimony and how the impact of her season at CCHO is helping others today. In story #40 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Heather reminds us that God is faithful. He never leaves us or stops loving us even when we walk away from Him.

I entered foster care at age four. By the time I was 15, I already had 13 homes including a failed adoption under my belt. Bouncing from home to home, I was subjected to physical and sexual abuse by several abusers. When I was 15, I finally found the courage to tell someone, and doing so unleashed a massive amount of fear and trauma that I’d been holding in for years. I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions, and I tried to take my own life.

Upon being released from the hospital, I was met with garbage bags full of my belongings. I was moving yet again. This time, I was taken to CCHO. I was scared, lonely, depressed, lost and broken. The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t feel like a group home. I’d been in those before. This place was different. It felt safe and welcoming.

We ate meals together, went to church together, and even went on vacation together! I attended therapy onsite, built a trusting relationship with my therapist and was able to open up and share a lot of my pain and begin working through it. Things started to feel somewhat normal again. I began to thrive. In the summer I had my own horse to care for and ride and that was HUGE for my growth. Over time I decided to give my heart to Jesus and was baptized in the CCHO swimming pool! It was such a special moment for me.

After two years of growth and healing, I moved in with a new foster family. I was sad to leave and afraid to go. But I knew the lessons I had learned during my time at CCHO would stay with me. I struggled after leaving. In early adulthood, I had unhealthy relationships, battled an eating disorder, and turned my back on God. In my late 20s, I again felt lost and broken.

Then I remembered the lessons about God and His love for me. Surely He would want nothing to do with me. I had kicked him out of my life. But I cried out to Him anyway, and in that moment, I felt peace for the first time in years. I knew He was there. He’d been there all along, waiting for ME to come back to Him. I began to climb out of my rock bottom with new hope inside. I worked daily on becoming the best me I could be and in doing so I began to heal again, to bloom and grow. I met a wonderful man and we got married.

God began calling my heart to serve. Two years ago, I poured my childhood pain into starting a nonprofit. We make comfort bags for youth entering foster care so they don’t have to carry their belongings in trash bags like I did. Knapik’s Knapsacks serves four county agencies and still growing!

God was calling my heart to serve further. Last year my husband and I began the process to become foster parents ourselves, and in June of 2018, we received our license! We currently have two placements in our home. We don’t know where this journey will lead us, but we know in our hearts that we’ve been called to it.

I talk often with others about my time at CCHO and the positive influence it had on me. I don’t know where I might have ended up without the love and guidance I received there. Those two short years impacted my life in huge ways. I am truly grateful for the time I spent at CCHO.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

Planting, watering, growing and blooming (Story 39 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). This year of storytelling has been filled with so many heartwarming memories and precious connections that God has pieced together over five decades of ministry. Today, Matt Hayden with Tri-Village Christian Church in Pataskala, OH shares about his own personal connection to CCHO’s family of ministries. In story #39 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Matt shows how that initial seed has grown into something far greater than he could have imagined.

CCHO has been a part of my life for at least 20 years. During that time, God has filled this relationship with a combination of wonder, trial, excitement and purpose.

I first heard about CCHO while growing up in a Christian church in central Ohio. The seed was planted about the awesome ministry happening in Wooster.

I entered youth ministry right out of college and, as best as I can describe it, my wife Megan and I got too comfortable too quick. In a challenge to step out in our faith, we accepted a role at CCHO as teaching parents in 2010, serving in the teenage girls cottage. While we eventually had to admit that we were not equipped for this role long term, Megan and I have never felt more like the hands and feet of Jesus than in that season in our lives. We also experienced such love and grace watching the power of Jesus transform the lives of the kids we served. The seed was watered.

Since our time as teaching parents, we have served in vocational ministry. As the Discipleship and Outreach Minister at Tri-Village Christian Church in Pataskala, OH, part of my role is to oversee missions. It has been wonderful to now be able to support CCHO financially and in other ways on the church side. Two years ago, we took a trip to serve at CCHO during the Great Grill Off. The team certainly enjoyed the chance to serve that weekend and to see the ministry of CCHO firsthand, but God had more up his sleeve.

My wife and I had been praying about becoming foster parents, an idea that we first considered when we were teaching parents. Every attempt at connecting with a fostering agency was closed. I called Encourage Foster Care and had a great conversation with Heather Huebner. Heather so graciously answered questions and empowered us to keep pushing through with the process. Not only did we have a great mission trip as a church, but the seed began to grow.

The following year, we worked through the process of being foster parents and brought some from the church along for the journey. Then, this past June, Tri-Village got to once again serve at the Great Grill Off while also taking part in the wonderful 50th anniversary celebration throughout the weekend.

CCHO was instrumental in laying a foundation that has now led to five Tri-Village families being licensed as foster parents, including my family. While we were not able to foster through Encourage in this fostering journey, they pushed us forward in the process. Since mid-August, we have once again become Jesus’ hands and feet as we have been privileged to serve a sibling pair in foster care. We went from our own two kids to now an even fuller house that includes a seven-year-old, six-year-old and a pair of three-year-olds! God is great…and He can also be surprising! The seed is beginning to bloom!

The beautiful thing about God is that I don’t know the full amount of fruit that will come from this journey. But knowing His power, I am confident that He is creating far more fruit than we may ever know. For us personally, our brief time in Wooster connected us to several mighty servants of God, from Kevin Hewitt (CCHO’s President & CEO) taking a chance on two people who had never had experience with that kind of work, to coworkers such as Dorn and Kandy Frame who walked alongside us in a tough position.

More recently, Heather’s wonderful words of encouragement led to the fruit of even more workers entering the foster care field. But there has been so much more fruit that God has grown in 50 years of bringing healing and hope to children in the bondage of pain and sin. There is a song we have been singing frequently in our household that says, “My God is so big and so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.” This sentiment rings true over and over for us. Our God can shine light into the darkest of shadows. There has been more fruit multiplied through 50 years of ministry at CCHO than anyone can comprehend or imagine through God’s power. Here’s to 50 more years, CCHO!

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

The transformative path (Story 38 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). Two former CCHO residents share their inspiring stories of transformation in story #38 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

Transformation. It looks different for everyone. It takes time. It involves small but important decisions. Often baby steps. But those baby steps along a new path can lead to somewhere special, a destination that once seemed impossible to reach. A season of health, renewal, growth. Transformation.

We’ve been privileged to watch God bring transformation to so many children in our residential center here at CCHO. Even after 50 years, we love watching these God stories unfold. It’s why we do what we do, and it’s why our incredible donors, partner churches and other supporters continue to give of themselves and their resources so generously.

Stories like these below – the first from a former resident from many years ago, and the second from a more recent former resident – illustrate just how deeply God loves us, and how strong his desire is to transform our hearts and our lives into something far better than what we could ever hope or imagine.

I was a child who went through…well, I forget how many foster homes when I was small until I was adopted at age 12. Due to many traumas I experienced as a child, I had a lot of issues I didn’t know how to deal with. My adoptive parent tried counseling, medication, etc., and none of it worked.

My parents somehow heard of CCHO and decided to give that a try.

I remember the ride to Wooster. It was a long drive from Columbus. I remember passing miles of cornfields and farmland. We pulled up, I was dropped off and they got started. The staff were so friendly getting me settled in, but I didn’t care. In my head I was thinking this place is a joke and I can’t wait until I leave.

I walked miles around circle track on campus when I got there. Not because I was in trouble, but because I didn’t want to talk to anyone, get close to anyone or listen to anyone.

Over time I figured out the staff and counselors were quite fine to let me figure stuff out and not be so direct. I started to loosen up, but very slowly. They didn’t pressure me, didn’t rush, and let me take my time. It took so long, in fact, that I lived there for almost four years, if memory serves me correctly.

I figured out they wouldn’t accept lying, cheating, violence, manipulation, or any other types of behavior I had been guilty of doing. They taught me honesty, forgiveness, self-respect, humility, self-worth and so much more.

The most important things they taught me were that it was okay to let people into my life, that people really cared for me, that not everyone was going to hurt me, and they did it well.

Since leaving CCHO, I graduated high school and then served four years in the Marines. I started a family and transitioned into a new career. I became an electrician, but I didn’t stop there. After four years of apprenticeship school, I became a journeyman electrician. Then a few years later I became a state licensed master electrician, wiring jobs in excess of a million dollars. I kept learning and passed my national exams to become a licensed electrical inspector. I now work for the city of Columbus as an electrical inspector.

I firmly believe that none of that would have been possible without the God-loving and caring staff of CCHO.

To the staff at CCHO: You are helping save children’s lives. It is challenging at times, I know, but never give up. The staff who touched my life didn’t. I am now a successful member of society, and I use the lessons I learned there to be a better father and husband.

God bless all of you.

I spent a year and three months at CCHO. While I was there, the staff were really kind and sweet to me and the other girls at the cottage. Those of us who had been making safe and healthy choices for ourselves and other residents would go on weekly outings like shopping or local activities.

Because of CCHO, I’m now doing really well coping with a lot of stress. They also baptized me but before that, they introduced me to God Almighty, and I’m so thankful for that. I want to thank all of the staff members for all the help they gave me. They never gave up on us kids even when we were being rude and not listening. They kept calm and tried to redirect us. If I had the chance to change my life before going to CCHO, I wouldn’t have, but they saved my life from self-destruction. They are my family and I will never forget them. Love you all and I miss y’all so much. Also, I miss the horses.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

Compelled by extravagant love (Story 37 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). As our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry hits the home stretch, we’re pleased to once again celebrate our sacrificial and compassionate staff in story #37 with a closer look at the work they do each day to help people experience their worth in Christ.

In one of our very first stories in this series, we shared a COMPEL nomination one of our former employees wrote for another employee. COMPEL, inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:14, is an acrostic for:

Christ
Others
Me
Possibilities of
Extravagant
Love

Each quarter, staff from our family of ministries send in COMPEL Award nominations for fellow staff members who have shown the love of Christ to others while upholding our core values of relentless commitment, selflessness and kindness. These nominations are then read aloud and celebrated at our quarterly All Staff luncheons.

Today, we have a trio of COMPEL Awards from our most recent nominations. These stories of extravagant love provide just a glimpse into the powerful ways our staff are impacting lives at CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling each day. They also remind us of the importance of placing the needs of others ahead of our own.

“Rebekah recently had to take a girl to court to testify against her abuser three days in a row. The first two days, the trial was postponed, which was discovered after arriving. The hearing was about three hours away, so Rebekah knew it would be a long day and that it could potentially be a long week. While taking residents to court is in her role, volunteering to do it three days in a row without complaining – while refusing to give in to fatigue, frustration and despair with the process; while providing a sense of safety and security for this hurting girl – is IN HER CALLING. We found out the day after the trial that the verdict was not guilty. The man against whom this girl testified and had to face had gone free. Naturally, this invoked some pretty intense behaviors such as self-harm and running away, but guess who was there with her walking down the road, asking to stay with her and showing her unconditional love all the same. Rebekah! What an example of relentless commitment, selflessness and kindness coming together to show a hurting girl her worth in Christ even if it may take her a lifetime to recognize it. Rebekah has surely planted this seed regardless of whether she will ever see the increase. Thanks, Rebekah, for showing us how Jesus would handle those four difficult days.”

“Marissa acted quickly in getting two foster children into counseling with Encompass and with our Thrive program in Green. As soon as the children were placed with one of our families near Cleveland, Marissa anticipated their treatment needs given their exposure to severe domestic violence, when they witnessed their mother stab their father to death. Marissa also assisted with getting the children to and from their Thrive visits that week so that the foster mother could attend to the needs of her other children while also running her own business at The Westside Market. Marissa makes most of the counseling appointments so they can facilitate the court ordered contact with their mother, which Marissa does as well. Thanks, Marissa, for displaying relentless commitment to these children and helping to fulfill our agency’s mission!”

“Perseverance is a word that concisely describes Kateri! She helped a young man in Cottage 1 understand that his past did not have to define him. She helped calm anxiety that was so crippling that it threatened to steal any amount of joy that he could find. She waded through depression that all but prevented him from even getting out of bed. She advocated for him at every turn and ultimately helped him discover his worth in Christ. This young man left recently to go to an independent living program with a better outlook – one that involves hope and the same perseverance that Kateri meets each kid with every day she walks into cottage 1!”

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

The Ziegler Family (Story 36 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). Today, Brian and Susie Ziegler share about their ongoing journey with Encourage Foster Care, an inspiring story that led to them adopting their son Gage. Story #36 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series is one of faith and answering a Biblical call to help those in need.

The Ziegler Family (#36)

James 1:27 calls God’s people to meet the needs of children living as orphans. Brian and Julie Ziegler answered that call by joining the Encourage Foster Care network. Learn more about their story and how Encourage equips them with the support and resources they need as foster and adoptive parents.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

The ultimate storyteller (Story 26 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). Today’s sweet story comes from Jeff Stump, one-time CCHO houseparent alongside his wife Susan and current Director of Facilities here at CCHO. Story #26 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series celebrates a full-circle story 20-plus years in the making that only God could write.

On July 11, 1997, a little girl was born to a single mom. That young mom was a former CCHO resident. Due to many circumstances, this baby came to live with my wife Susan and me only a few weeks after being born.

On August 30, 1999, we stood in a courtroom and officially adopted that little girl into our family. I cannot express the joy we’ve experience the last 22 years, having her as a part of our lives. Have there been rough times? Absolutely. But watching her become the woman she is today has made the journey worthwhile.

Nearly 20 years later, on May 6, 2019, our son and daughter-in-law stood in a similar courtroom, after more than a year of hard work and invested time. They adopted a little boy, our new grandson, officially into our home. Recently, while tucking him into bed, this little guy said, “I feel safe now. Life is going to be okay.”

Encourage Foster Care has been part of stories like these for years. There are so many incredible families out there with huge hearts and special gifts that God wants to use to bless children who would love to be able to say, “I feel safe now. Life is going to be okay.”

Will it be easy? No way. Will it be rewarding and Kingdom-changing? Without a doubt! Say yes and watch God write a story in your own life.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

CCHO: The Next 50 Years (Story 21 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). During our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner, we debuted several original videos to help celebrate the life change God has initiated through five decades of ministry. Today’s video, Story #19 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, looks ahead in anticipation of what God may do with CCHO and our family of ministries over the next 50 years.

The Next 50 Years (#21)

Several CCHO employees share their vision for what’s ahead for our family of ministries and what “More” might look like over the next 50 years. Click here to see the full recap from our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more