Emmanuel Church’s ministry supports foster families financially, emotionally and spiritually
By Nancy Price
Not long after Christina Idleman and her fiancé, Phil, moved to Indiana, they decided to foster children. After their first placement, they received another call from the foster agency and were notified that twin boys, age three, needed immediate placement. The couple had an hour-and-a-half to get ready to house two toddlers.
Idleman and Phil wanted to say “yes” but they had a problem; they had nothing for the children at their house. No toddler beds, toys, bedding or high chairs.
That’s when a Center Grove church ministry stepped in.
Love One Closet, supported by the community and volunteers of Emmanuel Church, aids foster and adoptive homes by meeting a child’s physical needs. A reserved closet houses items such as cribs, mattresses, toddlers’ beds, swings, bouncers, high chairs, toys, diapers, strollers and car seats.
Love One was started late last year as several members of Emmanuel Church learned that families who were fostering or adopting kids needed help, according to Outreach Director, Kerry Carmichael.
“What many foster parents find is they get a call for a placement and that child needs to be picked up that day,” she said. “This means they have to have all the required items in possession before picking up the child. The closet is a resource to get these items but there is also an opportunity to donate items to help other families in need.”
Idleman said that Loved One has been a tremendous support to her and her family. She was able to secure every item she needed for the boys through the ministry.
“If it wasn’t for the generosity of Love One and those who donate to the closet, we may have had to pass the kids to another placement who had the funds available to get the furniture needed to take them in. We were able to say ‘yes’ and the kids were safe and happy in our home,” she said.
The ministry’s assistance does not end with volunteers handing over some supplies and wishing a family good luck. An emotional support group called Love One Connect was launched several months after starting the closet.
“Here women can come together, share stories, be encouraged and support one another,” Carmichael said. “This is a great time for fellowship and we hope moms leave feeling refueled and refreshed.”
The support group was also yet another blessing for Idleman, who, being new to the area, still knew few locals with whom to connect for a chat over coffee, let alone talk with about the challenges of being a new foster parent.
“I was surprised to find out just how much I had in common with the other foster moms,” she said. “Even though our ages vary and our life experiences are very different, we are all alike in many ways. Many of the women who are in the group with me or who work with the closet have lent me a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. I am able to pick up the phone and express that I need help, no matter the kind and it is answered with ‘How can I help you?’”
The latest support program being offered to foster families involved with Love One is the addition of Care Communities, a trained group of six – eight volunteers who provide emotional, spiritual/prayer and physical/financial support. The group was started to help families overwhelmed with the many responsibilities of fostering, including court dates, hearings, doctor appointments and arranging biological sibling and parent visits for the children.
“Nationally, 50 percent of foster families quit either after the first year or after their first placement, primarily because they didn’t feel supported,” Carmichael said. “The Care Communities model has been proven to retain up to 95 percent of those foster parents. Literal, physical and emotional support is what families need. When a group of people surround a family and are there to help with a meal or two a week, encouragement and prayer and babysitting, it makes a huge difference.
“We meet and go over why foster families need support, how they can support them, the state laws involved to make sure they are supported correctly, behaviors that might exist within the family and the children, background and CPS checks on every individual and then lastly we have them meet with the family for a ‘launch’ to meet with foster parents, kids and foster kids. This also provides an opportunity to go over specific needs within that family.”
Heather Matlock, who has an adopted 12-year-old son with her husband, Justin, understands just how much this group is needed. The Matlocks have been fostering children for three years, starting with a newborn named Bella. After her birth, Bella had to remain in the hospital for a month before being discharged to stay with Heather and Justin. Yet there were more problems ahead.
“After a lot of ups and downs and visits and court hearings, we finally adopted her on April 9,” Matlock said. “It was a very long journey and process. Sometimes these kids go back to their biological parents or a family member. Sometimes they are able to be adopted. We learned that fostering is a rough and tough process.
“It helps to have people in the community who want to help and that you can connect with and share your story,” she continued. “We cannot begin to describe the outpouring of our Care Connect team. We receive a meal once a week, every week so that more time can be spent with family instead of in the kitchen. They also provide childcare for our children two times a month so that Mom and Dad can have a date day or night. This is much needed and also very appreciated. The women we work with in our care connect group are absolutely amazing! Loving kind, compassionate and caring. I have made many friendships that will last a lifetime. They are some of the most loving and caring people we have ever met,” she said.
For more information on Love One or to donate items for the closet, call Emmanuel Church at (317) 535-9673, visit eclife.org or facebook.com/eclife.org.