A Crucial Step to Adulthood
As an adoptive father of two children rescued from a squalid Haitian orphanage, Kile B. Bateman long had a concern for children who slipped through the cracks.
But his passion for helping young adults — those who aged out of the foster care system without ever being adopted — crystalized on a 2012 trip to California, where he attended a conference at the Los Angeles Dream Center. Bateman, with his wife, Patti, has pastored Evangel Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, since 1999.
In L.A., Bateman heard Dream Center pastors Matthew and Caroline Barnett talk about distributing food to the homeless on Skid Row. Daily, Dream Center volunteers saw a state Child Protective Services van dropping off aged-out foster kids. The 18-year-olds carried trash bags of their possessions. They had no place else to go.
Such aged-out scenarios are reality across the country. Bateman finds the word out a harsh reality.
“These kids are out of options and out of a system that didn’t provide much help to begin with,” says Bateman, 55.
As a result, Bateman started a ministry called Phased IN, a supervised transitional living program for emancipated foster youth. The ministry is an approved missions project of the AG’s North Texas District.
Bateman believes the customary mindset of foster kids is they better not mess up or they will be moved to another placement. He says such young people need the same grace and mercy blood relatives would receive.
So rather than enforce a set of rules, Phased IN for the past 8 years has offered options to youth they may never have received.
“We ask, What are your dreams, How can we bless you?” says Bateman, who spoke at the AG’s inaugural national foster care roundtable in March.
Bateman, a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, says Phased IN offers all the benefits of a group home mingled with dorm life at a Bible college. Businesses and various denominations support the ministry financially.
RULES, WITH MERCY
For the past year, Darrell G. Trout has been the full-time on-site executive director, after nearly four decades as an AG pastor in West Texas. Early in his ministry, Trout, now 64, hired the newly saved 19-year-old Bateman to be his youth pastor at Fritch First Assembly.
Currently, the six Phased IN residents are all female. They must be engaged in at least 20 hours a week of schooling, employment, or nonprofit volunteering. Trout says 60 percent of those who age out of the foster system in Texas haven’t earned a high school diploma, so schooling is a priority at Phased IN. Without a degree, the odds of being unemployed or underemployed escalate, along with the likelihood that offspring will end up in the foster care system themselves.
“They’ve been told for years by foster parents and case workers that they will ‘become an adult’ at 18,” Trout says. “I know a lot of 30-year-olds who aren’t adults yet.”
Through Phased IN, young adults learn basic life skills that prepare them for stable living on their own. Residents learn how to budget, open a savings account, prepare meals, fill out a job application, and shop for groceries. They still qualify for free medical
care and counseling through the state.
Beyond education, Trout says imparting social skills is another key factor for a productive transition. A young adult who may have lived in as many as 20 foster homes unsurprisingly has issues with maintaining relationships.
Consequently, there is much structure at Phased IN, including weekly meetings to monitor progress.
“We are rule-oriented, but I tend to err on the side of mercy,” says Trout.
There is no recommended period to stay. Residents must be between 18 and 21 years old to live on the dorm-style campus.
“Our goal isn’t necessarily a length of time as it as much as the ability for them to function on their own,” says Trout, who earlier served on the staff of Teen Challenge Adult Centers of Texas in Midland. “It may be three months, it may be three years.”
Milo Bentley Mai stayed at the Phased IN facility from 2014 to 2016. He managed to move in just as he aged out of the foster care system, but not before a providential meeting.
At a Braum’s restaurant for lunch one day while still in high school, Milo engaged in conversation with a customer in line. He thanked the stranger wearing an Air Force uniform for his military service, and told the boy accompanying the officer that he wore the jersey of the greatest soccer player in the world, Lionel Messi.
The next day, Mai went for an interview with the Phased IN residential director — who turned out to be the man in the uniform at the restaurant. After they left as residential directors, Troy and Sarah Mai ended up adopting Milo. Now 26, Milo has been part of their family for 5 years.
Milo considers his time at Phased IN pivotal in making a productive transition to adulthood. He didn’t enter foster care until age 15, and the time he spent in a children’s home and with two foster families unsettled him.
“Altogether, Phased IN was a good experience to get me on my feet,” Mai says. “I learned how to do taxes, got my driver’s permit, built a job résumé, and learned how to cook. Phased IN is an excellent program with a team of amazing people. Kile was the first person to ever tell me I’m awesome.”
For the past 4 years, Mai has been in the U.S. Navy. He currently is a quartermaster 2nd class assigned to the USS Normandy. He has been deployed around the world and plans on a career in the military.
A second Phased IN facility with 10 beds is nearing construction in Arlington. It should be open by October, with William Clayton Garrison and Debbie Garrison as residential directors. They both have master’s degrees, are the adoptive parents of three foster children, and are credentialed AG ministers.
At the Wichita Falls campus, much of the instruction falls to residential directors Pat and Syvilla Stacy — who themselves have adopted two children and fostered more than 90 others. Trout calls Pat “iron man,” because he also leads a foster care association and teaches required state foster care training to prospective parents.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Bateman these days directs orphan care development for the AG’s North Texas District. Trout also is a part of the orphan care team and his wife, Rhonda, is Bateman’s administrative assistant. Over the years, the Trouts have provided foster care for 15 infants, most of whom have been addicted to drugs.
Photo: Darrell Trout is executive director of Phased IN.