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

Unpacking The Rep’s “The Call”

We didn't ask to solve the world's problems - we asked to adopt a baby

When the subject of adoption comes up, especially in a community-wide context, we get excited and pay close attention. We are The CALL, and our objective is to mobilize the Church in Arkansas to love foster children with the extravagant love of Christ.

That’s why we’re excited the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (The Rep) is presenting Tanya Barfield’s thought-provoking play “The Call” through February 11, 2018. Since our organization shares the same name as Barfield’s play and the production centers on the topic of adoption, we thought it would be helpful to our partners, friends, and families to know our thoughts on the production to help shape the conversations that may come your way about the play. We hope to accomplish that without providing too many spoilers.

The primary characters of the play, a Caucasian couple in their mid-30’s (Annie and Peter), have decided to adopt a baby from Africa. The actors in this production are very talented and believable, and the script does a tremendous job of capturing the anxiety and doubt that comes with adoption. Their closest friends are a well-traveled, African-American, lesbian couple who’ve just married. Their exchanges provide a backdrop of middle-class, suburban sensibilities and bring forward some of the preconceived notions about multi-ethnic and cross-cultural life in modern-day America. There is also an exploration of the things that make a family a family.

The play demonstrates the influence of friends and family on the decision to move into adoption. It also realistically portrays the indecision and difficulty that come when things do not go as planned. Our experience is that every foster and adoption situation is unique. In our work, we help families understand the process and, in essence, submit it to God and pray to see His work. The play also brings front and center the trappings of our consumeristic culture that assumes it’s possible to select a child to adopt the same way we would pick out a home or a car. Sometimes, hopes and dreams become a set of demands and result in unrealistic expectations.

The play also touches on an aspect of adoption some call the “Hero Complex.” It’s when an affluent couple hastily decides to adopt because of guilt resulting from seeing a child’s helpless state. These feelings, combined with a lack of understanding of the sacrifice associated with adoption, often summon problems which can lead to disruption. At The CALL, we help couples navigate this phase and assist them with the tools they need to process their motivations. The characters in the play seemed to prioritize their needs over the needs of the child. Their needs were specific and numerous. The child just needed a bedroom.

An important distinction could be made by simply explaining the meaning behind the play’s name “The Call” and our organization’s name “The CALL.”

The play seems to gather its name from the suspense and tension that comes as the couple waits for the phone to ring with the news – any news – about the child with whom they may be matched. That call from a social worker or agency is certainly a poignant moment in the life of every adoptive parent.

The name of the organization “The CALL” is just as specific but in a different way. To be clear, “The CALL” is named to point to God’s call on the lives of Christians to minister to the modern day orphans in foster care in our community. Through no fault of their own, these children have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect and have been removed from everything they perceived stable in their life. We believe every Christian is called to be a steward who creates or supports a safe, nurturing environment where children can experience the extravagant love of Christ. That is “the call.”

Finally, we should say that while the play mentions God and faith briefly, it does not offer a biblical worldview of adoption. There were a few instances of profanity expressed in moments of frustration. The emotions expressed by the cast are raw and authentic. The Rep gives “The Call” a PG-13 rating. However, we would not recommend this production for children under the age of 18.

Overall, we found “The Call” to be a genuine and compelling way to bring the subject of cross-cultural adoption to our community.


Lauri Currier, Executive Director, The CALL

Mike Clowers, Development Coordinator, The CALL in Pulaski County

Earning your trust

Penny and quarter symbolizing donations

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

Mobilizing the Church in Pulaski County to care for children in foster care with the extravagant love of Christ.

The David family leaning on huge letters spelling the word 'LOVE"

“Religion that God our Father considers pure and undefiled is this:  to care for orphans…in their distress…” James 1:27

There is a critical need in our community for foster and adoptive parents for children who have been abused or neglected and are in the foster system.  For Christians, there is a biblical mandate to care for the local fatherless, the orphan, and the least of these.  The CALL educates, equips, and encourages the Church to fulfill its calling in meeting the needs of these children, and is a key support for those who come forward to serve.

Our vision:  No waiting children in foster care in Pulaski County – having more than enough Christian foster and adoptive families for the children who need them.

Pulaski County Stats:

  • Children in Foster System: 550
  • Open Foster Families: 298
  • Needed Additional Foster Families: 202
  • Children Available for Adoption: 100

But, there are 600 churches in Pulaski County — MORE THAN ENOUGH to provide the needed families for these precious children.  Are you being CALLED to do something?

 

What God Has Done So Far Through The CALL in Pulaski County:

  • Number of children being placed outside of our county due to a lack of foster homes has been drastically reduced from 67% to 22%.
  • Over half of the currently serving foster families (183) for our county were recruited and trained through The CALL.
  • Thousands of local children have been welcomed into Christian, CALL-recruited foster and adoptive families.
  • Over 250 children have been adopted out of foster care by local CALL-recruited families
  • 60 churches in Pulaski County have partnered with The CALL in foster care ministry
  • Three CALL Malls provide free, consignment-quality clothing and needed items for children in foster care.
  • Four support groups are held each month for foster and adoptive families.

Will YOU join with us in caring for our local children in crisis?

Click on Events to sign up for an upcoming CALL Info Meeting to find out more about fostering, adoption, respite care, mentoring, or volunteering in other ways!

 

June God Story: The Bethards Family

Andrew, Sarah, and Caroline Bethards enjoy a Disney Cruise!

Working and being around vulnerable kids for many years helped me see the difference that it makes for kids to have unconditional love, and I always felt that God had given me so much love to share. God had placed foster care and adoption on my heart.  My heart has always been broken for the orphans, so giving a loving home and parents to a child in need was not a question of if, but a question of when. Andrew took a little more convincing on the fostering part of things, but he has a little sister who was adopted from China so it’s been on his heart for about 10 years too.

We decided to go through The CALL because of the faith-based aspect to all of the trainings. It was very important to us to surround ourselves with praying people as we began the journey of fostering because we knew that we would be leaning into God more throughout, so starting out with Him as the firm foundation was important to us.

The CALL helped us immensely by walking us through all of the paperwork and helping us get opened in a short amount of time. It’s been great as an open home to have the support of The CALL from knowing people to call for help to the ability to “shop” donations at The CALL Mall when we get new placements. The CALL also helped us tremendously when we got a placement who was on a formula not covered by WIC; they rallied our church family behind us and together we ended up with over six months of formula purchased and delivered to us, it was such a relief!

Shortly after we opened as a foster home, we started to try to have a biological child, but God had other plans. Through the pain of infertility, we closed our home to fostering for a time. In 2015, God put it back on our hearts that even though we had been unable to conceive a child ourselves there were children around us who needed us, so we reopened our home. Not long after that we got a call for a placement for an 8 month old.

Caroline Bethards on her Adoption Day!

Two weeks later we got a call for a two week old who was going through withdrawals. With both my husband and I working full time we didn’t think we could take a placement that young. I called my mom, who is retired but lives out of state, to see how quickly she could come and help. She was able to drop everything and come so we could accept our baby girl in to our home. It was amazing and definitely God’s grace and provision that allowed it all to happen so seamlessly!  That little baby eventually became our adopted daughter, Caroline.  In about a month we went from a broken, hurting place to a joyful and full home.

This experience can only be described as a roller coaster. There is only a certain amount of normal that can be achieved when kids are in and out of your home. It’s emotional. Most of the time it takes a good amount of effort. But it’s SO worth it. All of it. It has brought us closer to each other as a couple and closer to God.

By Sarah Bethards.