Encourage Foster Care – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

Encourage Foster Care

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

The Kandel Family (Story 19 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. The most touching moment of the night belonged to Julie Kandel and her incredible family. Story #19 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series celebrates Julie, her late husband and their legacy of fostering through faith.

When Julie Kandel and her husband Ron began their foster and adoption journey in 1991, they couldn’t have imagined they would one day have 18 children (including three biological daughters). Theirs is an incredible story of answering God’s call for their lives and their family, of trusting during each step of the process, and of persevering through incredible tragedy to provide a safe haven for young children in need of a loving home.

The Kandel Family (#19)

Julie and Ron Kandel have built a legacy of selflessness and unconditional love while welcoming 15 foster and adoptive children from three different sibling groups into their home since 1991. This is their inspiring story. Click here to see the full recap from our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.

We were honored to have Julie and her family join us for our 50th Anniversary Dinner. After the video played, everyone in attendance gave the Kandel family a standing ovation as Julie and her children made their way to the stage, where Kevin Hewitt, CCHO’s president & CEO, gave them a token of our appreciation for all she and Ron have sacrificed to provide a loving home for children in need.

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

See the possibility (Story 11 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). We hope you will enjoy story #11, courtesy of Emily Engman, LSW, foster care assessor and trainer at Encourage Foster Care, from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series. Her words are timely as we recognize National Foster Care Month in May.

When you hear people talk about foster care and adoption, you often hear about a broken system, damaged children and a whole litany of all the challenges, difficulties and reasons to stay away rather than get involved. At Encourage we see the heartache our foster parents experience when they grieve the loss of separation from a foster child they loved as their own. I am most inspired by the families who persevere and press forward, take on another placement and once again love and care for another child whose future is uncertain. It is often this uncertainty that weighs foster parents down. Not knowing if a child will be in your home for three months, a year, or forever, is tough.

Our goal in child welfare is always to reunite a child with their biological families. Reunification is a beautiful thing. Adoption is a beautiful thing, yet it is also born out of a significant loss. As Christians, we’ve just celebrated Easter. To walk away from the challenges and not move forward, is to leave Jesus in the tomb.

The hope in Jesus is that there is restoration for each and every one of us. For the parent who hurts their child. For the foster parent that wants to quit. For the child whose behaviors makes them seem most unlovable. There is nothing that brings me greater joy than to help a foster and adoptive family through the struggle of foster care and see them come out on the other side.

In the last year, I have had the blessing of working with a few families who had just about closed their doors or had been told by other agencies that they wouldn’t have more children placed in their homes. But I think the hope we have calls us to do more. In the summer of 2018, we accepted a family who had experience fostering/adopting but had been through a challenging situation. Since they have worked with our team, they have fostered four more children and were chosen this week to be placed with a little girl who has medical needs and is currently available for adoption. If they hadn’t become an Encourage foster family, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to love and care for these children.

Being able to witness the healing and restoration of a foster family is such a privilege. While we minister to the children in our care, we minister to the families as well. I love to see our Encourage foster and adoptive families experience success and know that our staff is there to support them along the journey. When I think about foster care, I don’t see a broken system or damaged children. I see the possibility.

I’ve been a social worker for over ten years, and I am still passionate about children in foster care not just surviving but thriving in our foster homes. Our strength lies in our ability to believe in something greater than ourselves and that each and every foster parent, biological family and foster child has value and meaning beyond ourselves.

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

Perfect love casts out fear (Story 3 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). We hope you will enjoy story #3, courtesy of Encourage Foster Care, from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

It’s not easy being a foster parent. In fact, many foster parents would say opening their hearts and homes to children in need is the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

Gwyn would agree. When she took in a terrified four-year-old boy and his baby sister nearly five years ago, Gwyn’s whole world was turned upside down. The siblings’ two-year-old brother had just died as the result of suspicious injuries allegedly inflicted by their mother’s boyfriend. After months of praying over the beds in an empty room in her house, Gwyn watched God answer her prayers in an unexpected way.

The transition was incredibly difficult for everyone, especially early on. The little boy, who insists he also had been abused by “the bad guy,” bombarded Gwyn with questions, trying to figure out if he was finally safe. Fear and anxiety ruled him, and he wondered why he hadn’t died too. His anger sent him into intense “fight mode,” repeating the words and actions that he endured from his mother’s boyfriend.

Gwyn says she believed that God had placed this little boy and his baby sister into her home for a reason, and she knew she had to love them in return because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). “I couldn’t guard my heart if I was going to love them and give them what they needed,” she says. “I had to make them feel safe…. So I just said, ‘Okay, God, I’m going to love them while I have them. While they’re in the circle of my arms, my family, my home, you are giving them to me to invest, to love, to nurture, to do my best with.’”

Breakthroughs began to happen during the boy’s trauma-informed counseling, and six months later, he started praying that Gwyn would adopt his sister and him. That prayer was answered two years later.

Today, the nine-year-old boy has a new name – Joshua, which he chose because he wanted to be as strong and courageous as the Joshua he learned about one day in Sunday school. He’s a big baseball fan who loves camping, fishing and riding his bike. “He’s just my outdoor kid that wants to go wander the woods all the time,” Gwyn says. And after starting this school year two full grades behind in his reading level, Josh has nearly caught up with the other kids in his class.

Meanwhile, Josh’s sister, Lena Rose, is now named after Gwyn’s grandmothers. While she tries to make sense of her big brother’s grief and anger, Lena hasn’t been as impacted by the traumatic events as Josh because she was so young when she was placed in Gwyn’s home. She loves reading and will be starting kindergarten next year. “Lena would swim every chance she gets,” Gwyn says. “She’d grow a tail if she could, so we love mermaids now.”

Gwyn, Josh and Lena Rose

We featured Gwyn and her beautiful family in a recent video for Encourage Foster Care. To learn more about this ministry, please visit encouragefostercare.org.

While the initial trials and immediate turmoil have passed, Josh still has days when his emotions get the best of him. However, his overall progress, Gwyn says, is remarkable. He sometimes struggles understanding other people’s boundaries but he has become much more empathetic toward others.

“He definitely puts himself first,” Gwyn says, “but he’s able to recognize he’s doing it and he can come back and apologize (in those moments). I never saw that at all from him at first.”

In particular, Josh still wonders how “the bad guy” could do what he did. “I told him people can only do that if their empathy is broken,” Gwyn says. While Josh’s sense of empathy was damaged by what happened to him, Gwyn says she has explained to her son that they are rebuilding it. “I said…‘we’re teaching you to look at what is happening to others and how others feel, and you’re learning to care about other people.’ And that made sense (to him), and he took it and ran with it.”

Gwyn’s prayer for her children is that they would “love Jesus ridiculously,” that they would both grow up being incredibly strong and courageous, just like Josh’s namesake, while using their gifts to impact God’s Kingdom. As for herself, Gwyn has been reminded that God is big enough for everything she has faced, and that He will be big enough for anything she, Josh and Lena will face in the future.

When asked what advice she would give to herself at the beginning of this emotional five-year journey, Gwyn says, “Hold on tight because you’re in for a wild ride.” She pauses before adding, “It’ll be really hard, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be worth it.”

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

Foster parents are invaluable

Foster parents are invaluable to CCHO’s ministry in helping kids experience their worth in Christ. They provide safety, security, love, compassion and support for children when they need it the most.

How does fostering fit into our children’s residential program?

Children at CCHO are working personalized programs with specific goals tailored to their needs and circumstances. These goals include plans for completing their programs, leaving CCHO with new skills, and reentering family environments. Ideally children are reunified with their biological family. When that isn’t possible, children are matched with foster parents with the possibility of this home becoming a forever home.

CCHO specializes in caring for kids with trauma in their background. Kids who successfully complete our program will do best in foster homes that understand how trauma impacts a developing young person. These families have participated in specific trainings such as TBRI so they can better care for children affected by abuse and neglect.

The need for foster parents is great. Research indicates that there will be more than 20,000 Ohio children in custody of their respective counties by 2020 due to a host of reasons with the opioid epidemic being a leading cause.

We invite you to learn more about Encourage Foster Care, one of our ministries with an amazing team to support you professionally and personally. From day one we desire to set you up for success in your role. Encourage’s Director Shawn Pedani, LISW-S, has written a blog on what it takes to be an influential foster parent.

First and foremost: foster parents are adaptable and flexible. They roll with the punches and don’t give into power plays with their youth. They frequently let their foster child(ren) have the last word. They have great self-awareness and recognize that everything doesn’t have to become a battle. Some Encourage foster parents say that parenting can’t always be structured with black and white thinking. The gray areas include the reasons why kids do what they do. Foster parents need to be openminded and use genuine empathy–at all times.

(Read the full article.)

Encourage hosts in depth foster parent pre-service training multiple times each year. Visit our training page for information and contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at huebnerh@ccho.org or 330.462.1118 with your questions.

Read more