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Sowing Generational Seed: The Turner Family on Fostering and Adopting

Tameka and Timothy Turner of Jacksonville began their journey of fostering and adopting nearly nine years ago. With three biological boys, Timothy, Calen and Cameron, Tameka knew she wanted to adopt a little girl. After attending an adoption picnic hosted by “Project Zero,” they found and fell in love with a five-year-old little girl in July 2009. Six months later, Kennedy officially became a Turner.

Now with a daughter, Tameka and Timothy thought that their family was complete. They had never considered fostering because they “didn’t want to take a kid, invest in a kid, and have the kid taken away.” They felt if a child would come into their home, that child belonged to them. However, God changed their hearts and minds, and they opened their home and became foster parents just a few years ago.

Tameka says God spoke clearly to her and told her fostering is “…sowing generational seed. No matter how long a child is in my home, we can plant seeds in that child that God will grow.” Tameka now understands that even her biological children are not hers, but God’s. With that in mind, the ultimate goal of reuniting foster children with their biological family is just part of God’s plan. Tameka prays for her foster son, as well as his mother, and prays for reunification. The Turners frequently reach out to her foster son’s biological mother to let her know that she is loved by them and by God. Tameka emphasizes to her foster son’s mom that “God loves you so much that He allowed us to take care of your son until you can take care of him.”

The Turners help their foster children learn and grow, but ultimately, they want them to reunite with their biological families. They often show their foster son photos of his biological parents and teach him, “this is your mom, this is your dad.” Tameka has used the story of Adam and Eve with her daughter to explain how sometimes God’s perfect plan gets derailed, but he can still make something right out of something wrong. “God’s plan is for us to be with our biological families, but sometimes, things happen, and the plan is thrown off. Now it is His plan for adoptive and foster families to take care of children in foster care.”

So far, the Turners have had three placements. The first for four months. The second was a very short two-week placement. Now, they find themselves fostering a toddler who has been with them for a little more than a year. With a house full of teenagers, Tameka never thought she would take in a small child, but she wouldn’t change the experience for the world.

The Turners are Church Advocates for The CALL at Emmanuel Bible Fellowship Church, 6012 General Samuels Road in Jacksonville.

by Whitney Holman, Church Partnership Coordinator,
The CALL in Pulaski County

SPENCER’S GIVING STORY

How fitting that this sweet boy donated diaper and wipes to The CALL on Giving Tuesday!!
This is Spencer Sugg’s giving story! Like last year for for his birthday, he asked his friends to bring diapers and wipes instead of presents to be donated to The CALL!!  So on GivingTuesday, he made a special deliver to The CALL Mall!!
Spencer – We THANK you for your giving heart and wanting to provide for foster children at such a young age!!

Unsung Heroes

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strengths, but by the strength of his heart.”
      Hercules

Have you ever started something assuming you knew what you would be doing and what you would get out of it, and then, to your surprise, you learned so much more, and took away more blessings than you ever could have imagined?  That is how I would describe my family’s journey as a foster family here in Northwest Arkansas. No one could have prepared me for what we would learn, the people we would meet, all the many services we would become aware of, and, most importantly, all the unseen heroes that we, unfortunately, had never given much thought to. You may not know it, but there are so many amazing men and women working with “at risk” families in our area. These men and women are the caseworkers working hand-in-hand with children and families through the Department of Human Services. Today, in Arkansas, there are 5,104 children in DHS custody, and every one of those children is assigned a caseworker that advocates and speaks on their behalf. Though often overlooked, no one can wear a superhero cape more deservedly than these men and women.

The first time I met our caseworker was the night we took our first kiddo. That night will always be one of my most endearing memories. I’m not sure what I expected, but the cute little blonde-headed boy with his honor roll ribbon pinned to his shirt wasn’t it. His little world had been completely shaken that day. He was scared, angry, and had no idea what was happening, where he was going, or what to expect. Thankfully, he had a great caseworker! She was there in that scary moment when he was taken from his family–she was a smiling face, and a warm hug. She reassured him that he was safe. She brought him to my home and walked alongside him, his siblings, his family, and our family for months and months until his case was complete and a safe resolve for his family was reached. That one case would keep a single caseworker busy, but this superhero had 15+ cases happening much like it at the same time.

When someone asks me who my heroes are, at the very top of my list are caseworkers. They fight on the frontlines for families. They are often hated, disrespected, and mistreated because, in their job, they have to do hard things daily.  They care deeply and are genuine. They believe in second chances and that people can change and rise up when they are given hope and support. They fight and advocate for the children who often have no voice. They start work early, leave work late and take frequent on-call hours at night and on the weekends. When a family needs them, someone is available.

I was curious what the best part of a caseworker’s job is, so I asked Benton County caseworkers Maria Taylor and Sarah Harper what they thought. Sarah said, “Getting to be part of helping families, working for reunification and seeing successful reunification.” Maria said, “Seeing a family reunified. Seeing parents successfully battle their demons, do HARD work and completely change their lives and become a better, happier, healthier family is THE BEST.” The kids they work with become their kids. They worry about them, they pray for them, they lose sleep thinking about their case and their families. These kids all have pieces of their heart and I’ve seen firsthand how hard they work to help these kids and families have healthy and happy lives. I’ve seen them rejoice when things turn out well and families are reunited, I’ve seen them be heartbroken when they don’t.

Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” This perfectly describes every caseworker I have ever met. Even though it often seems impossible, like there is no way to get it all done and complete everything that needs to be completed, they work hard day in and day out to see it through. They give families hope! Casework isn’t just a job–it’s about helping restore the broken, holding hands with those fighting the fight of their life, and being the person whose lifting them up, encouraging them, and cheering them on. Casework isn’t just a job–it’s a life changing career calling. If you happen to know one, give them a big hug and say THANK YOU! They are truly unsung heroes in our society and here in Northwest Arkansas we are blessed with some of the best!

Stephanie Laney, CALL Foster Parent

The CALL and Teachers

I want to share with you my journey being part of the foster care system as both foster parent and teacher.

Somewhere around our fifth year of marriage, Jacob and I heard a sermon that resounded with us. Our pastor, Charlie Loften, spoke on our Biblical obligation to care for children in foster care. I remember sneaking glances at my husband and thinking during that sermon, “Is this pulling at his heart strings like it is mine?” The moment we got into the car, Jacob looked at me and said, “This is something we need to do.” WHEW! Big sigh of relief!

Charlie’s sermon came at a time when the CALL, was being launched in Northwest Arkansas. The CALL’s focus is to address the foster care crisis in Arkansas. Children who come into care are often moved from their hometown, school, and the only world they know due to a shortage in open foster homes. Even within the few years I had taught, I had seen this happen at my elementary school. A student in my own classroom had been removed from her home during the school day. I recall hugging this tiny, clueless 2nd grader goodbye, unsure if I would ever see her again. Could I be part of the solution? Could I open my home as a foster home and keep our students close by?

After completing all of the requirements, it was a waiting game of which call from DCFS would be the perfect match for our family. You want only God’s plan, but you get anxious waiting on His timing. The excitement of the unknown even spread to our immediate family members.

In the spring of 2014, I was finishing up my fourth year of teaching in the Springdale schools. Those I worked with knew our intentions to foster. While a few of my fellow teachers were in my principal’s office one day, she mentioned a student at our school that had gone into care recently. The student’s 2nd grade teacher, who was in the room as well, was very worried about this child. I remember she asked me, “What can I do?” Being new to this, I didn’t know how one would go about even getting a specific child in their home. Was that even possible? Did you have to be an open home? Didn’t you have to get a call?

I called our CALL county coordinator, Ann Meythaler, to find out what we could do. Thankfully, Ann knew about a DCFS policy that provided an option for educators who have students go into care. If no family is available to provide an approved home, a child’s teacher can be considered as “fictive kin” and open their home for that child.

As a teacher that was willing to open her home, I was able to help this child, Kennedy, remain at the same school. I am so thankful that we were able to spare her from one more thing being taken from her. It has to be included that she also thought it was pretty awesome getting to live with a teacher!  Kennedy’s story is likely a familiar one for many in our profession: a student living in poverty who showed signs of neglect, abuse, little academic support from home, and an unknown future. I don’t want to share specific details, but her situation was discouraging. While we were very happy to provide a home for Kennedy while her biological family “did their homework that the judge gave them” (this was our way of explaining it to her), we did not anticipate that this would end in adoption. We hoped that she would be able to return to her family and prayed for them every night.

On April 8, 2015, we became Kennedy’s “forever family.” This is the official day that Kennedy was adopted. However, she has been a part of our family from day one. We all grew to love her and enjoy her silly humor.  We are so glad that we were able to be a part of her journey and continue our lives with her. Our family would not be the same.

Today, Kennedy is a healthy, smart, popular 12-year-old girl. She has received multiple awards for her leadership abilities. She engages and succeeds in anything new she tries. All who encounter her quickly notices her positive demeanor; whether it is those in her school, swim team, church groups, or extended family. I admire her for the way she treats others. No matter how different from her, she shows kindness to anyone she is around.

I will never take credit for all of these positive changes. Yes, we did ultimately change the future for her; however, the woman that she is becoming is due to those positive role models she has found along her journey. I give full credit to the teachers and staff that maintained high expectations, loved the whole child, and prayed for her.

I want to encourage those who work in schools to prayerfully consider if this is a journey you are willing to take with a child. I guarantee the idea of foster care is not as scary when you put a face to it. Yes, it was convenient that our family had already received the necessary clearance to receive foster children. However, it is possible to begin this process by contacting DCFS and opening as a “provisional home,” for a specific child in care. Let your principal and counselor know that if a child at your school goes into care, you are willing to open your home to them while they go through this difficult time.. You WILL be changing a life!

by Kathleen Barnes, Foster and adoptive mom and former CALL Board Member

Earning your trust

I’ve always told my children that trust is rarely granted. Instead it is earned. The next question they asked was “How do I earn your trust?” I told them that trust is earned with consistent behavior over time.

It is that simple and, unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

One of the things we are serious about at The CALL is earning your trust. As an organization that depends on the generosity of people like you, we believe a sacred trust is the foundation of each financial gift you give.

One way we are consistent in our behavior over time is to be members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). The ECFA provides financial supporters assurance that members are accountable. They examine seven areas of The CALL’s ministry:

  1. Doctrine – Does the Bible inform our belief and practice as an organization?
  2. Governance – Is there appropriate, independent board oversight?
  3. Financial Oversight – Are our finances audited and managed to rigorous accounting standards?
  4. Use of Resources and Compliance with Laws – Are management controls in place?
  5. Transparency – Are we active and open with our financial reporting?
  6. Compensation-Setting – Do we follow ECFA’s Compensation policies and recommendations?
  7. Stewardship of Charitable Gifts – Do we act in the best interest of our donors?

The ECFA describes their standards as simple but not simplistic. Each standard has significant implications for its members. As an ECFA member, The CALL must follow all these standards. You can review the standards in detail at ecfa.org. We encourage any organization you support to join this ECFA as well. It’s a high bar that helps you know we strive for integrity, honesty and competency in handling the dollars you give.

Here at The CALL, we want you to feel confident when giving your financial support. Being members of the ECFA is one way to build trust as we fulfill the mission of no waiting children in foster care.

Thank you for trusting us to mobilize the Church in Arkansas to love foster children with the extravagant love of Christ!

Mike ClowersBy Mike Clowers, Development Coordinator, The CALL in Pulaski County