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A Practical Theology on Orphans

Southeastern University professor oversees transition home for boys aging out of foster care.

When Joseph H. Davis, theology professor at Southeastern University (SEU), first spoke with the board of Anchor House, a home in Auburndale, Florida, for boys in foster care, he told the directors he would have two priorities if they made him the executive director: spend all the ministry’s money to update the property and open a home for boys aging out of foster care.

Davis, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, stuck to his word. He improved the Anchor House residences to create a more comfortable and inviting home for those who lived there. Donors took notice and contributions to assist the program doubled.

He also followed through on his plan to create a home for the residents who previously had no place to go after reaching adulthood.

“I didn’t know why we would do all the work of the Anchor House if we were just going to put the boys on the streets when they turned 18,” says Davis.

Davis, 62, knew all too well the statistics of those who age out of foster care:

● 20% become homeless instantly;
● Only 50% will have some form of gainful employment by age 24;
● Less than 3% will earn a college degree;
● 50% will develop a substance dependence;
● 25% will enter prison within two years of emancipation.

Prior to Davis’s efforts, when children turned 18 while in care at the Anchor House, they went to homeless shelters or low-income housing.

With the assistance of generous donors, Davis oversaw the purchase of a transition home for the young men who aged out of Anchor House. When the first five young men entered the home, only one had a high school diploma or General Educational Development diploma. After two years in the program, all five had entered college.

Davis, who holds a doctorate in apologetics, originally thought the teens would want to stay only three to four months. But they chose to stay in the house much longer — even with rules and a curfew — because they experienced a sense of accomplishment in a safe and supportive environment.

“They had something they never had before: a home — a regular house, not a dorm,” Davis says.

“The morale among the staff increased dramatically, but most importantly, the young men began to change with fresh hope,” says Anchor House supporter Charles Gaulden, Old Testament professor at SEU.

Due to the success of the program, donors have stepped up to help provide two more residences for those transitioning to adulthood. Davis believes the locations of the homes factor into the program’s accomplishments.

“We would find great neighborhoods with houses that needed a lot of work,” Davis says. “We cut down temptation by placing these young men in good environments.”

One of the recent Anchor House locations is a transitional home for females. The ministry followed the same formula, operating a house in a great location staffed by caring people called to mission.

“People told us that we had lost our minds, that girls were much harder to work with than boys,” Davis says. “We have not found those predictions to be true. Over the past two years, our young ladies have done just as well as the boys graduating at or above the rate of the young men.”

Over the past six years of the program, the outcomes have surpassed expectations. Only 14% of the 50 people admitted to the transitional homes had a GED or high school education. However, after one year in a transitional home, over 92% have graduated or have earned a GED. Within two years, half have entered college.

“Dr. Davis has consistently demonstrated authentic and wise leadership,” says Gaulden, 65. “Anchor House is one of the most respected boys’ homes in Florida.”

Rebecca Burtram

Rebecca Burtram is an Assemblies of God pastor in Charlottesville, Virginia, a pastor's wife, mother to three, and an English teacher. She is the author of Our Broken Hallelujahs, and she blogs at rebeccaburtram.com.