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Giving Foster Care a Try

Supportive church sponsors helpful ministry for needy kids.

With their three biological children nearly grown, Angie D. and Stan C. Grant set out on their foster parenting journey with no idea what a tough challenge they faced. However, because they tackled the task, today Clover Hill Church of Midlothian, Virginia, has a thriving foster parenting ministry.

Since 2012, two dozen families have taken in foster children or completed training. Hundreds of others have fulfilled supportive roles, ranging from providing respite care or transportation, to mowing foster families’ yards or delivering meals to them.

The Grants didn’t set out to create a ministry; they just shared their story with others in the church. Two other families already fostering kids served as examples.

“It was not an ‘aha’ moment,” says Angie Grant, family resource director at the AG church her husband pastors. “We did it because we thought we could — and should. It’s turned out to be one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. It’s more than loving a child and creating a safe environment for him or her. There’s a calling to it.”

Clover Hill has answered that call in a variety of ways, with others picking up on what the Grants did. Out of that emerged a multifaceted ministry, which began with the church approaching the Chesterfield County Department of Social Services.

Clover Hill followed up with such tangible actions as members completing foster training and expressing appreciation for the difficult situations social workers face. That includes special breakfasts and luncheons throughout the year to honor them, and presenting them gifts on special occasions.

This month the church hosted its third annual Christmas party for 200 social workers, family court judges, and other officials who are part of the foster care system.

Foster parents in the congregation receive help from Clover Hill’s wraparound program. Wraparound care features such touches as volunteers taking foster children in for overnight stays once a month, providing meals, or staying with biological children so their parents can take foster kids to appointments.

Last August, the suburban Richmond church hosted its first Royal Family Kids Camp, part of a nationwide group of summer camps designed to help children from abusive backgrounds. The church raised $40,000 one Sunday, with the special offering defraying all the expenses for the 29 youngsters who attended.

Eight children from the camp later attended services; four siblings from one family were baptized several weeks after camp. The converts are among more than 15 foster children or family members Clover Hill has welcomed as new followers of Jesus.

“Those kids’ lives were changed, but those adults also will never be the same,” Grant says of the 50 members who volunteered as counselors and staff members. “Many of the counselors remain in contact with the kids.”

One member who caught the vision for fostering is Tammy L. Jackson, 38, the connection director at the church’s branch campus. The single mother of two young sons, Jackson initially felt nervous when considering fostering. She started by offering respite care for Micah, the foster child later adopted by the Grants.

Jackson since has fostered for a 16-year-old girl who later returned to her biological family, and she recently provided care for two siblings who soon will return to a family member. While acknowledging there have been occasional tensions and conflict, Jackson also has experienced joys, such as her foster daughter returning for Thanksgiving dinner, six months after she left Jackson’s home.

“God gives eyes for what He sees,” Jackson says. “He’s so much bigger than their circumstances. When you see what they’re going through and the meltdowns, you can sit and love them through it. It opened my eyes to the fact that He can heal this situation.”

A passionate supporter of the need for God’s people to respond to the crisis of broken families, Grant, 47, says the question isn’t “if” a church should get involved, but “how.” To help, Clover Hill is working on an informational packet that other churches can use to launch similar ministries.

“There are many folks who are sitting in our congregations looking for what God has for them,” Grant says. “This is a great way for people to get involved in His work.”

Kenneth C. Walker

Kenneth C. Walker is a freelance writer, co-author, and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has more than 4,500 article bylines and has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books.