August 16, 20190

When Aurora and Michael met 10 years ago, it didn’t take long for the conversation to include plans for a potential future family. In fact, they had only known each other for about four hours when Aurora said, “You know, I’ve always seen myself adopting…but older kids. I don’t mind having bio children, but I’ve always had a heart for older kids, older teenagers.”

Aurora had been a motivational speaker for students. She was one of the female youth directors at the church she attended while in seminary.  Even as a teenager, she worked with teenagers in a leadership role in high school. So wanting to adopt teens was just a progression of where her heart was.

The fact that Michael didn’t flinch at the idea of adopting teenagers, and instead indicated that he would “love that,” pretty much sealed the deal, and they were married in November 2009.

Around that same time, two sisters and their younger brother were placed into their first foster home. The three Hispanic siblings, ages 7-10, would be placed in five more foster homes over the next eight years and wind up living in a group facility before becoming available for adoption. But God had a plan for Brenda, Gracie, and Gerson, which started with the siblings never being separated during their entire ordeal in the foster care system. A miracle in itself.

As Aurora and Michael began their life together, they weren’t in a hurry to have their own children or adopt. They agreed to wait until they felt like it was the right time to add to their family. About six years later, the time to adopt seemed to arrive.

Aurora and Michael are both half Hispanic and have family and friends in Mexico. One of those friends, who was finishing college in the US, was in town. When Aurora answered the knock on the door, her friend was visibly upset and crying. She said her sister was pregnant, and they were desperately searching for a home for the baby when it arrived. Aurora was asked if she would take the baby.

Aurora immediately thought, “Wait, we wanted teenagers, what happened?”  Aurora told her friend she would talk to Michael about it, but they had lots of friends who would love to have a baby.

When she told Michael, his response was somewhat in jest, “Someone offered you a baby and you didn’t take it!” Aurora wasn’t against adopting a baby, she had just prepared herself for teenagers. So, she called her friend to accept the baby into their family.

They immediately began preparing. Aurora left the photography business, they cleared their calendars for the next six months, Michael took maternity leave at work, and they were getting all the baby things ready. Then their world came crashing down. With six days left during the period when the birth mother could change her mind…she did.

Devastated, Aurora said, “The baby was gone. We were just standing in the house and thinking, what do we do now?”

The Bradfords got on with their lives. But at that point, they were not going to consider adoption again.

After about a year, out of the blue, Michael asked Aurora if she would like to attend a CPS meeting about adoption. She nonchalantly said, sure. Aurora had a girlfriend who was a foster mom that was looking for more respite providers, so she thought, “we’ll just do respite now and get our feet wet.” But then she heard about the need for more foster families at the meeting.

“I remember sitting at that table, and we were told there was like 13,000 kids in foster care and Texas was in the middle of a crisis,” said Aurora. “At that time, there was a newspaper article about children sleeping on floors in the CPS offices, and how there was a desperate need for homes for these kids.”

Suddenly, adoption was back on the table!

At the meeting, they were presented with a list of potential agencies and the Bradfords emailed Arrow and two other agencies. With Aurora’s driven nature to get things done, she decided whichever agency had the next available class to attend, that’s who they would go with. As the greater plan continued to unfold, Arrow’s staff emailed Aurora with info on a class that was being held the very next day. Of the two other agencies, one never contacted the Bradfords and the other one responded long after the Bradfords already had children in their home.

After being licensed, the Bradfords submitted their interest on several different sibling groups. Then they received information on a sibling group of three: Brenda, Gracie and Gerson. Aurora hesitated because the youngest was 12.  “Oh, I don’t know,” Aurora said. “They’ll probably find somebody to adopt them. I really want older kids that are harder to place.”

The Bradfords actually passed on the opportunity to submit their interest in adopting the trio. Later, Aurora had a change of heart, but the deadline had already passed. Arrow staff told Aurora, “Oh it doesn’t hurt. We can go ahead and submit. The worst they can say is ‘no.’”

As the plan progressed, the Bradfords were chosen by the adoption selection committee. “In our minds, they were already our kids,” Michael proclaimed.  Aurora added, “We just had to wait on the paperwork from CPS so we could read their history and sign the papers saying we would take them with their background.”

During the four months the Bradfords waited for the CPS paperwork, they passed on two other sibling groups. The “sales pitch” on one of the groups was, even though there are five children, they’re all younger and would be easier than adopting three teens.

“That’s not why I’m here,” Arora declared. “They thought we couldn’t have our own bio kids. We were very capable of having our own, but I wanted to be the solution to a problem instead of hoping someone else would do it.”

The Bradfords were more determined than ever to “fight” for Brenda, Gracie, and Gerson. So when the 4,086 pages of background information on the kids finally arrived, Aurora and Michael split the stack of paper and pulled an “all-nighter” reading every single page.

“I was looking for examples of sneaking out, or drinking, and things like that,” Aurora said. “I was so perplexed. Everything in the report was just regular teen stuff that all kids do. There was nothing bad in the report.  So we signed on the dotted line.”

The kids were living in a shelter in the Houston area, and the Bradfords lived in Dallas. After meeting the kids, Brenda, the oldest, let the Bradfords know she didn’t want to leave in the middle of the school semester, so it was decided the kids would stay in the shelter until the end of school.

Before the kids came for their first visit, Aurora went to great lengths to prepare their bedrooms so it would feel like “home” to them. She painted the walls, hung an old, fun chandelier in the girls’ room and embroidered the girls’ names on their pillowcases. “I wanted their room to have the feel of a five-star hotel…glamorous and beautiful,” said Aurora.  “For Gerson’s room, I put a big “G” on the wall and since he as a big reader, we gave him three bookshelves in his room, each eight feet long.”

On their first trip to Dallas, the girls gasped when they saw their room and their names embroidered on the pillows. When Aurora saw Gerson struggling with his big, heavy bag and a backpack, she pointed out that his sisters were sharing one backpack and she asked him what he was bringing for the weekend. Gerson told her, “They’re my books. I’m moving in.”

“Michael and would I drive down to Houston every other weekend and bring the kids back to Dallas,” Aurora explained. “We’d leave after work on Friday, and have the kids to our home around midnight. We’d have a great time together on Saturday, then leave about 4:00 Sunday afternoon, drop them off and be home by 1:00 in the morning.”

The Bradfords made the round trip to Houston twice a month from January until May. Many times, they would make multiple trips in a week to attend all of the kids’ events, like the other parents did. Then school finally ended and Aurora, Michael, and the kids made their last trip from the shelter to Dallas.

Brenda, Gracie, and Gerson officially became Bradfords on the November 3, 2017, National Adoption Day.  Since then all three kids have just blossomed.

Brenda, now 18 years old, will be attending Texas State University. She’s not sure what she wants to study, but she’s considering social work as her major.

Gracie (16) and Gerson (15) are taking dual college credit classes from the local community college while being homeschooled. When they both graduate in December 2019, they’ll each start college with 27 hours of college credit.

Gerson was invited to take a private tour of the College of Engineering at the University of North Texas. As the Department Head and one of the professors were giving Gerson and Aurora the tour, they sat in on a class where Gerson raised a question that demonstrated his grasp of the topic. Later Aurora asked Gerson if he understood what they were talking about, and he replied, “I understood what they were doing, but I just didn’t understand how they got to that point.” Gerson has his eye on computer science.

Gracie has shown the greatest transformation of the three kids. As the one who rarely spoke up and complied with others, she stunned Aurora and Michael when she came bounding down the stairs to tell her them she needed to buy a dress because she had been accepted for an interview to enter the Miss Teen Texas, which is part of the National American Miss organization. Gracie had taken the initiative to apply online, and was about to embark on an incredible journey.

The day of the pageant, Aurora shares the scope of Gracie’s transformation, “When we met this girl she said a handful of words a day. Last year, she was almost in tears at the idea of speaking to a crowd of people. Today she is not only giving speeches to large audiences, she is presenting herself to people as a role model for other girls. Winning the crown would be exciting, but what all the people in that room tonight don’t know is, this little girl had all the odds against her just a couple years ago. She told me once that she stopped dreaming about her future because she knew it would never happen. Now, all she talks about is what she wants to do and what part of the world she wants to see next. She represents 68 of the bravest girls in Texas. Little Gracie has become a completely different girl. She is Gracie Bradford and she is our winner!”


August 13, 20190

Residents at Freedom Place helped plan a red carpet themed banquet to celebrate the successful end of their school year. The original idea came from one of the residents who mentioned the wish to a staff member. The promise was made that it could be done and it was going to take a group of dedicated staff and volunteers to try and pull it off. Everyone knew the importance of following through to help build healthy relationships with the residents. They couldn’t let her down or the other residents!

It was time to get to work, the resident had shared her ideas on a storyboard outlining the entire event, down to every detail, including the theme and color scheme. Staff and volunteers started asking for donations. The volunteers from Golden Shears Salon in Spring, Texas heard about the idea. The stylists were so moved by the resident’s initiative and creativity, they decided to collaborate and get in on the planning and even volunteered to provide hairstyling and makeup for attendees on the night of the event.

That was just one of the items on the list that could be checked off. The biggest cost would be finding gowns to fit each of the residents. Golden Shears salon referred staff to a non-profit formal dress shopping program, called Ashley’s Cinderella Closet. Ashley, a local high school student, started it after Hurricane Harvey for students to attend their end of school year events and collected dresses from across the US. The need was still evident after the initial endeavor and Ashley continues to collect the gowns from donors and passes on the kindness by sharing them with those who need them for special events. Freedom Place’s event fit the need she would want to fill. When Ashley was contacted she readily agreed to help find the residents formal dresses. She provided multiple fittings and stylings of gowns for the residents to find their perfect dress, at no cost to Freedom Place. Ashley’s Cinderella Closet didn’t stop with providing the dresses in fact the whole family got involved. They provided beautiful decorations and paid to have a meal catered on the night of the event from a nearby Italian restaurant.

The night of the Oscar-worthy event was memorable! All of the residents looked and felt amazing in their gowns. The residents received special awards prepared by their staff and beautiful gift bags from a volunteer, Camy. Each of the residents was celebrated and had their picture taken, by volunteers, Amy and Becky, to commemorate the special day! And it turned out to be a very special time for the residents, staff, and volunteers. Everyone’s passion to see a resident’s wish granted turned into a very fun and formal evening that made great memories for them all!


August 30, 20180

At the age of 30, Chris and Stephanie Johnson had their first child. Three years later they wanted to grow their family, but they soon discovered adoption was the only way it could happen. They didn’t have the $30,000 to $60,000 it would take for a private adoption, so they put it in God’s hands, and for nearly a decade they just went on with their lives. That is until last year, when God used a truck in need of repairs and the flooding of Hurricane Harvey to fulfill Chris and Stephanie’s greatest desire.

In March of 2017, Stephanie began feeling the pull to complete her family. Even though Chris thought after 10 years they had waited too long, Stephanie hopefully said, “No, let’s just pray about it.”

“Okay, God is going to show a sign,” Stephanie told Chris. “God is going to start opening the doors. When he does, are you ready?” Chris was onboard, but neither of them dreamed it would be just three months later when doors would start opening.

Chris was at the car dealership in Winne, Texas where he was the service manager, when Gregory Wysingle, an adoption coordinator for Arrow came in for truck repairs. Gregory had been on his way to court to participate in a case to have parental rights terminated when he realized he had pushed his luck too far with his truck. It had to be repaired now, even though he was far from home.
During their conversation, Gregory shared that he facilitates adoptions for children in the foster care system. And Chris shared that he and Stephanie had been praying that God would provide a way for them to adopt.

“When Chris came home, he laid Gregory’s business card on the counter,” said Stephanie. “I was in the middle of dinner. Dylan (their 15 year-old son) wasn’t having a good day. And when Chris told me he had a visitor today, I sarcastically told him…you have visitors every day. He said it was a special visitor, and I told him, yeah, I really don’t want to hear about it right now.”

So Chris just left the business card on the counter and went to change clothes. Stephanie looked at the card and saw Gregory’s title.

“So here I go chasing Chris through the house,” said Stephanie. “He told me about Gregory and that he was willing to come to the house to give us more information.”

When Gregory explained all the subsidies adoptable foster children qualified for, and the minimal cost to the adoptive parents, Chris and Stephanie were ready. But then Stephanie described the child she wanted to adopt, and Gregory explained it didn’t work like that. Stephanie needed time to process the idea that she wouldn’t be able to get the child she had longed for over the past 10 years.

Chris and Stephanie discussed the adoption opportunity during a long driving trip all the way to and from Florida. They agreed to hit the ground running as soon as they got back. They completed their foster parent training in just four weeks, and a month later they were licensed foster parents. Thinking they had several months to prepare for their first foster child, they were surprised when in just a matter of days they got the phone call.

“She asked me if we would take a respite,” said Stephanie. “I told her I must have slept through that part of the class, and I asked, what is a respite?”

Stephanie was told there was a foster family that had a 4 year-old girl named Destany, who just needed a temporary place to stay for five days. Even though everyone in southeast Texas, including the Johnsons, were getting ready for Hurricane Harvey, Stephanie agreed to take Destany…for five days.

Destany’s foster mom called Stephanie to arrange the transfer. She explained that Destany’s brother had medical issues, which meant lots of doctor visits. And because of all the attention her brother was needing, Destany would act-out with self-inflicted scratches, and self-inflicted head wounds. The mom would continue to foster Destany’s brother (and later adopt him), but Destany was just too much for her to handle.

“When I got off the phone, I thought, oh my dear lord, what have I gotten myself into,” said Stephanie. “Then when I went to pick up Destany, the foster mom brought more than just a few changes of clothes. She brought all of Destany’s belongings.”

When Stephanie called the Arrow Beaumont office for clarification, she was told that the foster mom couldn’t handle the children by herself anymore and they wouldn’t be going back. Arrow explained they were hoping to find a placement for Destany during the five days she would be with the Johnsons, but that the foster mom had been specifically told not to bring all the child’s belongings.

That night, the flooding of Hurricane Harvey started. The next morning Stephanie and Chris were having a cup of coffee and watching the hurricane updates when they heard the pitter patter of little feet coming down the hallway. Destany turned the corner, threw up her hands and exclaimed, “Momma, I’m home!”

Stephanie looked at Chris and said, “What do we do? She’s not home. She’s only here for five days!”

They attempted to discourage her, but Destany wasn’t buying it. And when Stephanie told her their first names, Destany said, “No. Mommy. Daddy.” And after introducing their 15 year-old son Dylan, Destany instead, called him “bubba.” Destany was very emphatic and could not be swayed.

Then five days turned into 10, then 15. This was Destany’s fifth placement since entering foster care at 16 months-old, and Stephanie told Chris that something had to be done.

“Are you ready to let her go,” asked Chris.

“No, that’s the problem,” said Stephanie. “She’s forming a bond with us. And if they don’t move her, it’s only going to hurt her more, and it’s going to devastate me.”

Once all the flooding receded, a CPS caseworker came to do a home visit so Destany could stay, but she wanted Stephanie and Chris to also take Destany’s younger brother. But Stephanie explained that Destany had not once acted out or hurt herself since being away from her brother, and they weren’t going to disrupt Destany’s progress by bringing her brother into their home. The caseworker went back to her office and explained to her supervisor the remarkable change in Destany. They decided to arrange a conference call between the CPS staff and Arrow staff to decide if the siblings should be separated.

“On the day of the conference call I was on pins and needles,” said Stephanie. “I was just watching the clock and praying. Then the phone rang. They said I could tell Destany she was home. So when she woke up, I told her she was home, that she wasn’t going to have to move anymore, and that this was her home forever. She looked at me with the biggest grin, and said, ‘I know that.’ Then turned around and walked off.”

After delaying the adoption because of Chris’ mother being ill, the adoption was consummated on June 28, 2018, Destany’s fifth birthday. Along with her new family, she now has a new name, Alivia Joy, who on day one with the Johnsons, prophetically proclaimed…“Momma, I’m home!”


March 19, 20180

Jeannie Dye has fostered 45 children over the course of nearly 11 years with Arrow, including several sibling groups, but her current situation is turning into something she’s never experienced before.

Just like all the other kids Jeannie has fostered, the one, two and three-year-old siblings in her home are being loved on as if they were her own, but for the first time, she feels called by God to do more…not for the kids, but for their 23-year-old mom.

“I’d been fighting it for a couple of months,” explained Jeannie. “But God kept saying, ‘Jeannie, you’ve just got to help this mom.’ I didn’t realize why God was telling me this, but I finally said, ‘Okay God, if this is what you’re telling me, then I’m going to help this mom.’”

Jeannie hadn’t met the kids’ mom or dad. All she knew was the information CPS had shared with her. But like she does with all the parents of her foster kids, as soon as she knows they’re really trying to get their kids back, Jeannie let’s CPS know it’s okay for the parents to join her for doctor appointments and be part of other similar parenting responsibilities. Jeannie feels if the parents are going to get their children back, they need to have these types of hands-on parenting experiences.

“After a little bit, the kids’ mom started coming to the doctor visits,” said Jeannie. “We could tell she really, really enjoyed being part of it. And she couldn’t understand why somebody was actually letting her come. She was very thankful. And she never asked for anything.”

The children’s mother had no idea that God was about to use Jeannie to help her meet the CPS requirements for her apartment to be considered ready, so she could take her kids back home.

“She works at a fast food restaurant,” said Jeannie. “That’s not a lot of money for her to be able to get her three kids back. And I started thinking, ‘she’s being set up to fail!’ She’s going to have to have daycare. She doesn’t have a car. How is she going to take care of these kids?”

Jeannie was determined that before the three toddlers went back home, their mom was going to have everything she needed, and more, to successfully keep them from ever returning to foster care. So she sent out the word, and help started coming in.

Some people, like Jeannie’s cousin and a foster mom in another city sent cash, others like her own parents purchased and donated needed items. But they all wanted to be part of “lovin’ on this mom.” Jeannie was able to collect a triple stroller, a car seat, high chair, three months of diapers and pullups, summer clothing, enough sheets, and blankets for three beds so the mom would only need to wash sheets once a week. And Jeannie gathered enough food to stock the young mother’s pantry to show CPS that she was ready to get her kids back.

“We all just wanted to be an encouragement to this mom,” said Jeannie. “So I got a card, put everybody’s first name in it, and put it in a Bible to give to her, along with everything we’ve collected. And I’ll tell her, when you’re feeling down or like you can’t to it, or that nobody loves you, I want you to take out this card and see that…’Ms Jeannie loves me…Ms Brenda loves me…Ms Brenda doesn’t even know me, but she loves me and my kids. James and Carol, who are they? I have no idea, but they love me and my kids, and they want to see me succeed!’”

On Monday, February 26th, Jeannie surprised the kids’ mom with all the donated items during a CPS visit. Jeannie said she was very surprised and very thankful. But the encouragement kept coming.

When the next step of overnight and weekend visits come, Jeannie told the children’s mom to send all the kids’ dirty clothes and sheets back to her, and Jennie would have everything washed when she returned to get the kids. When Jeannie presented the idea to CPS to get their okay, they said, “Sure! Nobody’s asked that before.”

“God is involved with every day,” said Jeannie. “From the moment we wake up until we go to sleep and the time in between. I’m praying for God to continue making a difference in this mom’s life as she’s about to get these three kiddos back, because I don’t want to see her kids come back into care. Hopefully I get to continue lovin’ on these babies and encouraging their mom after the kids leave, if not, I’ve got to just put it in God’s hands and continue praying for them.”

Jeannie is a single mom fostering with Arrow’s Arlington office. She currently has five children in her home, including her own eight-year-old son. But you wouldn’t be able to tell which child is hers by the way she spreads a thick layer of love on all the kids in her home. As she puts it, “They’re ALL my kids. Oh my gosh. They are all my kids!”


December 12, 20170

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman presented Jon Mark McMullen, VP of Arrow Health Solutions, and a three-man DPS flight crew with the prestigious Commissioner’s Award of Excellence for their heroic efforts to deliver life-saving formula to a foster family trapped by hurricane Harvey flooding. This is the first time this award has been presented to someone outside of the TDFPS. As the commissioner indicated, the only reason TDPFS had zero fatalities during Harvey was because of Jon Mark’s determination, his persistence, and his heart to serve. Read his incredible story below.


The 30 day supply of doctor prescribed formula should have been delivered two days earlier to Arrow foster parent, Tammy Leger in Lumberton, Texas but flooding from Harvey made any shipments impossible. The special formula is for children with impaired GI function, and Tammy’s boys were running out. If she didn’t get the formula soon, her children would not survive.

Tammy, like many Arrow foster parents, receives her medical supplies through Arrow Health Solutions, which donates all proceeds to the programs and services of Arrow Child & Family Ministries. The vice president of Arrow Health Solutions, Jon Mark McMullen was contacted by Tammy’s insurance company Superior Health Plan to devise a plan for getting the desperately needed formula to Tammy.

Jon Mark immediately began calling all hospitals, emergency medical facilities, pharmacies, durable medical equipment companies, and other retail vendors in the Lumberton area to find any formula that Tammy could access. But there were no local facilities that stocked or could even acquire the Peptamen Jr 1.5 formula, and even facilities in Houston were not able to help.

Then after contacting a registered dietician to look for an alternative equivalent formula that could be used for a few days until the prescribed formula could arrive, Jon Mark obtained a verbal prescription order from a doctor for the alternative formula. Then the search began for a local supply of that formula. The results were the same. None was available.

The only thing left to do was for Jon Mark to obtain a supply of the formula in Austin, Texas where he lived, and personally drive it to Lumberton just north of Beaumont. But when he arrived, the bridge he needed to cross to get to Lumberton had collapsed, and the Department of Public Safety had the road to the bridge blocked. After speaking with DPS troopers, he got permission to proceed to a staging area where boats were being used to ferry people and supplies. But the current of the rushing water had increased so much that the rescue boats were capsizing and authorities halted all the boating efforts.

Jon Mark was not dissuaded. He immediately began calling helicopter touring companies in the area, but they were all being used by FEMA to medivac patients from Beaumont. So
he obtained alternate driving routes from DPS troopers, and for six hours he attempted to find a way through to get the formula to Tammy and her kids. But flood waters had shut down all access to Lumberton.

About 8:00 Friday night, Jon Mark contacted Arrow’s CEO, Scott Lundy and let him know that all efforts to deliver the formula had been exhausted, and they needed to use Scott’s contacts to get access to a helicopter. Scott called TDFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman, who is also the former chief of the Texas Rangers, and within minutes DPS Air Command called Jon Mark. He would have his helicopter.

After coordinating a pickup location with DPS Air Command, and arranging for a landing zone with the Lumberton Fire Department, Jon Mark personally delivered the box of formula to Tammy’s waiting child.

Tammy posted on her Facebook page, “(Jon Mark) somehow managed to coordinate with a DPS helicopter and the Lumberton Fire Department to hand deliver the boys formula to us at the fire station. I am amazed! I am so indescribably thankful for everything everyone did to bring this scary situation to an end. Jon Mark you went above and beyond!!!


October 17, 20170

Anita Eggerson never dreamed she would be able to own a four-bedroom home with 2,600 square feet, on a half-acre of land. But she knew in her heart, her new home was a blessing directly from the Lord.

“There is no way a single woman should be able to do what I did,” explained Anita. “Standing on my deck, I asked God, ‘I know you gave this to me for a reason. I’m thanking you, but what am I supposed to do with all this. It’s big!’”

The very next day at church, Anita was doing what she always does, engaging the kids in the youth program. By the laughter and interaction, it was evident Anita has a natural ability to connect with teens.

She caught the attention of fellow church member Amy Anderson, Arrow’s program director over foster care in Amarillo. Amy complimented Anita on being “really good” with kids and suggested she check out Arrow’s foster care program. She invited Anita to one of their meetings just to hear what they had to say.

“I went, and of course I enjoyed it,” said Anita. “I loved what I saw and just how much energy they had, and how much passion they had for the kids. And I was like, ‘I want to be part of that!’”

Since becoming an Arrow foster parent, Anita has brought into her big home six teenagers and two preschoolers. But as Anita shares, “I feel my knack is with teenagers. I can reach them.”

Matthew was one of her greatest challenges, which became one of her greatest blessings.

Matthew came into foster care with his sister in 2010. The following year, the two were separated and Matthew’s sister was adopted. After losing contact with his sister, Matthew was devastated and begin to have social difficulties. He didn’t have many friends, his school worked suffered, and he frequently skipped classes.

The number of foster homes and shelters Matthew had been placed in over the years are too numerous to count. In 2016, Matthew became one of those kids who had to sleep in a CPS office because there was no place for him to go. An emergency statewide placement request went out to find a place for Matthew, and Arrow’s residential program in Amarillo had an opening for Matthew. But his downward spiral continued.


August 8, 2017



The medical staff at the hospital said the newborn wouldn’t live for more than a couple of weeks. But they hadn’t met the tenacious Tiffany Ross yet.

Tony and Tiffany Ross had married very young, but they stuck together through the struggles, and reached the point where they were content and happy with their lives. Tony had a good job, they had a nice house, and Tiffany was a stay-at-home mom raising their three kids.

In obedience to God’s calling to foster children in need, Tony and Tiffany have fostered about 25 kids over the years. “We both agreed, we don’t need a bigger family, we don’t want a bigger family,” said Tiffany. “We are fostering. That’s our ministry. That’s what God has called us to do.”

They understood their role was to take in broken children with various limitations, do what was necessary to see them healed and whole, and transition them to their forever adoptive home. But through a series of signs they couldn’t ignore, God changed their ministry to include adoption.

Tony and Tiffany have since adopted Joshua now four years-old, and Gracelyn now 3 years-old. Because of state regulations, another adoption would close their home to foster care. Since they wanted to continue fostering, Tony and Tiffany weren’t planning to adopt again. Not until a series of miracles indicated there was one more child who desperately needed them.

Tiffany was convinced that God wanted them to foster a child who had been diagnosed with a terminal condition. On a Friday, while driving to a couple’s retreat, she called Arrow’s State Director of Health Care Services Sharon Kiely to ask if there was a need for a foster home like that. Sharon told her there wasn’t that need right now, but if God was speaking to her heart, He was preparing her. Since Tony had not received the same message, Tiffany asked Sharon to pray for them as they considered taking in a child and loving on them during their last days.

The very next day, a little boy who was scheduled to be adopted was born in Amarillo, Texas, but because of a defect, the doctors didn’t expect Braylen to live more than a couple of weeks. Of course, the adoption agency backed out of the planned adoption. And two days later, Braylen’s mother abandoned him at the hospital.

The very next day, 650 miles away in Beaumont, Texas, Tony lets Tiffany know he also has heard from God, and they need to prepare to minister to a terminally ill child.

The very next day, Child Protective Services calls Sharon at Arrow asking about a possible home for Braylen. Sharon immediately called Tiffany. Tiffany responded, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

The very next day, the medical staff, social services staff, along with Tiffany and Tony conferred on Braylen’s condition. It was decided that Tiffany would fly to Amarillo to bring Braylen back to Beaumont.

The very next day, exactly one week after calling to ask about the need for families to foster terminal children, the CPS supervisor and case worker picked up Tiffany at the Amarillo airport, and took her directly to the hospital. Shortly after arriving, Tiffany shared contact information for the Texas Children’s Comprehensive Care Clinic in Houston. The nurse called the clinic to schedule an appointment for Braylen when they were back home. Normally, an appointment wouldn’t be available for weeks to months, but the clinic was able to see Braylen as soon as they returned, first thing Monday morning at 9:00 am.

Tiffany spent the night with Braylen, and it couldn’t have gone better. Braylen had not been able to finish a full bottle of formula and was being fed through an NG tube. But through the night, and into the next morning, Tiffany was able to get Braylen to take four full bottles. The doctors ordered the NG tube removed.

The very next day, Tiffany and Braylen spent time cuddling and getting to know each other. The connection was instantaneous, Tiffany completely fell in love with this little miracle. Before they left the hospital, the doctor told Tiffany that even though they initially thought Braylen would not be able to survive for more than a couple of weeks at the most, now they really weren’t sure because of his incredible response to Tiffany.

Later that day, when Tiffany arrived at the airport, she noticed things seemed strangely quiet, especially since it was the Christmas season. No people coming or going. The airport seemed almost deserted. As she walked down the hallway with Braylen in her arms, she began to hear singing. She turned and looked into a glass room, and there she saw the back of a choir on risers. They were singing about the newborn Christ-child, “Away in a Manger.”

At the ticket counter, the agent mentioned how precious and tiny Braylen was, and Tiffany responded by telling the agent she was concerned that the flight might be painful for Braylen. The agent assured her that he would be fine. Prior to take off, the pilot and another crew member came back to Tiffany’s seat to talk with her. They understood Braylen had just come from the hospital and that she was concerned about the effects of altitude pressure. The pilot explained that he found a lower altitude that they were cleared for, so he would be able to fly at a level that would have the least possible impact on Braylen. Then the pilot escorted Tiffany and Braylen to first class.

As they flew home through the dark, Tiffany looked down at the clouds and watched a beautiful glowing light below the clouds that led them on their way home.
At Braylen’s Monday morning doctor’s appointment, the prognosis was the same. Braylen had Hydranencephaly and was still considered terminal, with no prediction on how long he might survive.

Within the first month, Braylen’s head started growing exponentially. It surpassed the second and third percentile, and continued to grow until it was no longer measurable for his age category.

Braylen desperately needed surgery to relieve the building pressure in his head, but the earliest the surgeon would attempt it would be at the age of six to nine months. Braylen was 1 month old.

“Braylen was in such pain, he would scream day and night,” Tiffany said. “I stayed with him during the day until Tony came home at 5:00 or 6:00 and I would sleep until midnight. Then I’d stay up all night with Braylen while Tony slept. Tony would go to work in the morning and we’d do the same thing all over again.”

The situation finally escalated to the point where Tony and Tiffany had to take Braylen to the emergency room. While they were waiting for all the consults, Braylen started sundowning. Changes in his condition were changing so rapidly, the hospital admitted them.

The surgeon and two teams examined Braylen and came to the conclusion that Braylen’s discomfort wasn’t from increased intracranial pressure, but was just acid reflux. They put him on Tylenol around the clock and anti-reflux medication. Tiffany wasn’t buying it. She told them, “We’re not going home until we have a happy baby.”

After Tony and Tiffany spoke with another doctor, and after getting patient advocates involved, the surgeon finally agreed to put in a shunt to relieve the intracranial pressure.

When the doctor came out of surgery to let Tiffany and Tony know how the surgery went, he told them that when they pierced the membrane in Braylen’s head, there was quite a bit of pressure that was released. Tiffany thanked him for acknowledging and confirming her diagnosis.

“Braylen was a completely different kid,” said Tiffany. “He was happy. His head growth reverted to a normal growth rate. But even though the procedure brought relief, Braylen still had the looming ‘terminal’ label.”

At their next follow up visit with the surgeon, Tony and Tiffany meet with a palliative care team, who would help keep Braylen comfortable as the end of life came near. They also encourage Tony and Tiffany to prearrange funeral services, which they did. And then they consulted with the Gift of Life team about organ donation.

But Tiffany wasn’t ready to give up. She had been researching online, and found a place in Philadelphia that worked with brain injured kids. On the website, she read family testimonials, she watched videos that demonstrated the progress achieved by patients. Encouraged, Tiffany reached out to them, but never heard back.

While making funeral arrangements, Tiffany was asked if she wanted a burial or cremation. Fighting back the tears, she said she just couldn’t make that decision right then. Then her cell phone rang.

The caller ID on her phone said Philadelphia. Tiffany thought to herself, “Is this somebody calling about my student loans again, or is this actually what I pray it could be?”

After everyone left, she ran outside to a quiet spot and returned the call. It was the team at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential. Tiffany knew right at that very moment, God was saying, “Don’t give up hope yet.”

Tiffany explained Braylen’s condition, and the response was “That’s great! Let me tell you how we can help and you can see if that works for you.”

Tiffany breathed a prayer, “God, you didn’t give me a kid that was hopeless, you gave me a kid that I could fix. I just didn’t know it at the time.”

The Philadelphia team is currently overseeing Braylen’s intensive treatment program and working with the doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital, but it’s Tony and Tiffany who are administering Braylen’s daily therapy. They send the team videos of Braylen’s progress so adjustments in therapy can be made if necessary. And right now, Braylen is doing remarkably well.

Tony and Tiffany had a big decision to make. Do they continue to foster Braylen, or adopt Braylen giving him a forever family, but at the same time creating a “full house” which closes their home to fostering any more kids.

They had come too far with Braylen. He was already their son. Now they just needed to make it official. So on June 1st, the family celebrated the consummation of Braylen’s adoption. Their new son joined his other five siblings in completing the Ross family. Tony and Tiffany expressed their appreciation to everyone that helped them on their journey in the following note:

“We want to take a moment to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for their help, thoughts, and prayers! Today was a landmark day in Baby Braylen’s Journey as he was “officially” adopted into our family! A day, early on, we weren’t sure he’d live to see, but God clearly has big plans for our little man!

“It was so beautiful to see everyone who came out to support us today! What an emotional experience… adoption is a little like the birth experience in the sense that emotions are high and the love for your baby is overwhelming! But it’s also a bit like a wedding, where everyone is there to witness as you vow before God and the court to raise that child as if he were born from our own bodies. The magnitude of that responsibility is so great, yet it’s such an easy thing to commit to!

“Braylen is such a huge part of our lives and the love we have for him has taken over our hearts so much that it really feels like he was born from my body…adoption is definitely a God thing! And we’re so blessed and honored He chose us to be Baby Braylen’s mom and dad!!!”

Tony & Tiffany Ross


May 16, 2017

None of the treatments were working. According to the doctors, there was no medical reason why they couldn’t get pregnant. But Valarie and Evan Maier were trusting in God’s plan and His timing.

“We never prayed for a baby,” said Valarie. “We prayed and prayed for a family.”

The Maiers began looking into adoption but quickly discovered that the cost of a traditional adoption was prohibitive for them. Then a friend, who was a foster parent, explained how inexpensive it was to adopt a foster child and how the state even pays for the child’s support while they are in foster care.

“We decided that while we were waiting to see if the Lord would give us our own bio child…we could give one of His kids a home,” said Valarie.

Valarie and Evan were attending a CPS meeting where they heard about a lot of different foster care agencies, but Arrow’s foundational scripture resonated with them. Psalms 127:3-4 says “Children are a gift of the Lord…like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” For them, confirmation they found the right agency was when they met the Arrow staff. Valarie said, “We just loved the people. They were wonderful!”

The Maiers desire was to foster one child who was 6-years-old or younger. So when their first Arrow fostering experience turned out to be providing respite care for two African-American sisters, one of which was 8-years-old, the Maiers realized their vision was too narrow.

“It didn’t make any sense,” said Valarie. “Why are we putting parameters on what God can do? So we said we’re just going to be open.”

Valarie and Evan grew to love the young sisters, so much so that they tried to adopt them twice. Even though they were being considered, ultimately another family was chosen. Their trust in God’s plan and His timing remained strong.

The first foster child to be placed into their care was Vaughn, a newborn whose drug addicted mother was going into rehab for several months, and his father became incarcerated.

Ironically, just days before Mother’s Day 2013, Vaughn’s parents relinquished their rights. Vaughn’s mother told a case worker that she didn’t think she could make it on her own with him. She also expressed how thankful she was for the good care that Vaugh was receiving, and how she wanted him to stay with the Maiers. During a court proceeding, when Valarie and Evan just happened to be in the room, Vaugh’s father told the judge he couldn’t take care of himself, how could he care for a child.

Adopt VFinally, through Vaughn’s adoption at 15 months old, this loving couple had become what they prayed for…a loving family. But the Maiers were about to experience Ephesians 3:20 which says that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”

Less than two weeks after Vaughn’s adoption, Valarie received a call from Arrow asking if they would be open to another placement, a 6-month-old boy named Jace. Valarie and Evan enjoyed plenty of bonding time with Vaughn before his adoption, so the answer was “yes.” But Valarie had the same questions she had asked when they took Vaughn into their home, “What’s the situation with the bio mom…is this a long-term placement or do we have any idea?”

The answer shocked her. Jace’s mom was 14-year-old Ashlyn, whose mother was living with a possible sexual predator accused of raping one of Ashlyn’s school friends, and he was on the run from police. But Ashlyn wasn’t being removed because there wasn’t a group home who could take her. Valarie asked if they were actively looking for a home for her, the surprising answer was “Not at this time.”

Valarie wanted to take Ashlyn and her son Jace, but their license wasn’t adequate. The Arrow staff helped Valarie and Evan get everything taken care of in less than a week so they could open their home to Ashlyn and Jace.

Valarie called Ashlyn and asked if she was planning on raising Jace, or if she thought it might be too much for her to handle. Ashlyn was emphatic that Jace was her son and she was going to raise him. She said, “This is not my fault. I don’t have a job, and I can’t get a job because I just had a baby.” At this point, Ashlyn was an 8th-grade dropout with a six-month-old baby to raise.

After the state placed Ashlyn and Jace with the Maiers, it wasn’t long before Valarie was able to get Ashlyn back in school, partly because of a wonderful teen mom program the school offered. The school bus would pick up Ashlyn and Jace, take them to Jace’s daycare where Ashlyn would check him in every day, then the bus would take her on to school. After school, Ashlyn rode the bus back to pick up Jace before going home.

“She got him dressed every day, she fed him every day, and we did our very best to make sure she understood the difficulties she was facing as such a young mom,” said Valarie. “Their placement in our home came with the condition that we supervise her parenting efforts. But if she wanted to parent, we were going to allow her to be a parent.”

The unique situation of Ashlyn raising 6-month-old Jace while Valarie was raising 16-month-old Vaughn allowed for many practical teaching moments to reinforce Ashlyn’s growing parenting skills.

Ashlyn had been to church a few times in her life and had even accepted Christ as a child, but she never really understood what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Through Valarie and Evan’s strong faith example, and Ashlyn being able to attend church on a regular basis, it wasn’t long before she developed a true relationship with Jesus, even if it did start out a little rough. At the beginning, she begrudgingly attended church, assuming everyone would be judgmental and condemning. Instead, she was embraced and loved by everybody. They even started a single moms group to minister to Ashlyn. One of the focal points of the ministry is called Embrace Grace, which is a combination baby shower and “princess day.” Older ladies in the church cook food for the event, and bring baby gifts, while the young moms get all dressed up so they can see themselves as the Lord sees them – pure and whole, and completely spotless.

After about a year with the Maiers, Ashlyn’s parents relinquished their rights, which presented Ashlyn with multiple options. But because she didn’t have a job and couldn’t support herself, emancipation wasn’t one of them. She could continue in foster care with the Maiers, or they could adopt her. Or she could move to a group home that would take teen moms. Ashlyn said, “I want Jace and me to be a family. And I need a family because I need help.” Ashlyn chose adoption.

Ashlyn AdoptionIn December 2014, Ashlyn’s adoption was finalized, and the state dropped Jace’s case since he and his mom were now in a stable home environment. Not only did Valarie and Evan have Ashlyn as a new daughter, but they also had Jace as a new grandson. But the biggest surprise of all happened just three months earlier when Valarie gave birth to their newest daughter, Meridian. With three kids under three-years-old, “It was a party at our house all the time,” said Valarie.

Having experienced the placement of two babies in their home, and having to scramble to purchase all the baby things they needed, Valarie and Evan decided to start FAM (Foster & Adopt Ministry) to provide the things foster families need for an infant placement. They maintain a clothing closet with prepacked bags of clothes for all different children’s age groups and sizes, plus they provide things like baby beds, bouncers, and walkers. Valarie explains, “Our goal is to fill the gap between the phone call for placement and the child arriving. We bring the practical things the family needs so they can have time to bond and not have to run to the store on day one.”

Valarie’s passion for helping foster kids also led her to train to be a CASA volunteer to advocate for foster children in court. And she continues to encourage others to foster, “Many times I’ve shared with people, anytime you sit at the dinner table and there’s an empty chair, or you walk down the hallway, and there’s a bedroom with no one sleeping in it, that’s an opportunity that’s being missed to witness to and love a child. And they haven’t done anything wrong. It’s the parent’s fault this kid needs help, so help the kid!”

Family outdoorToday, Ashlyn is a high school graduate, she is employed, and Jace is in school, and they have their own apartment. The desire of Ashlyn’s heart is to help other kids who go through the same type of turmoil she has overcome, so she is currently considering her college options in order to pursue a career in counseling.

Ashlyn and Valarie have a fairly typical mother-daughter relationship. “She probably calls me five times a day,” says Valarie. “It’s great! She’s my daughter…it’s just how it is!”

Once again the evidence is undeniable…God’s plan and His timing are perfect.


December 21, 2016


At six years old, Raven was often left alone to take care of her baby brother Benji and her four year-old brother Gavin, while their drug and alcohol addicted mother would party with her friends. There were even times when their mother would drag the three children with her while she got wasted.

Neighbors took notice of the children’s situation and called CPS, but when the knock came at the door, their mother told the kids to hide and be quiet. It wasn’t until Raven showed up at school wearing her mother’s clothes that raised a red flag, and school officials intervened.

Their mother was allowed to have a final meal with the children at a McDonald’s before CPS took Raven and her brothers away. For the kids, it was just normal day playing on the McDonald’s playground equipment. Then their mother called them over and began crying as she told the kids they were going to be taken away from her, and she couldn’t do anything about it. The kids started crying and didn’t understand what was happening to them. Emotionally exhausted, Raven fell asleep on the long drive to their new foster parent’s house.

“We were in that home for about two years,” explains Raven, now 19 years old. “But those foster parents only wanted to adopt my baby brother, they didn’t want us older kids.”

The children’s Arrow Ambassador Family Specialist would not consider splitting up the siblings. She told the foster parents it was an all or nothing situation. So Raven and her brothers were taken to the home of Frank and Pam Rogers.

The Rogers had just previously fostered two other children they were hoping to adopt. But they were devastated when the judge granted custody of the children to their biological grandmother. Frank and Pam decided they just couldn’t go through that kind of heart break again. But Mala Ganapati, Arrow’s regional adoption coordinator, contacted the Rogers, and explained how much these three children needed them.

“My first impression of them was that they were very nice,” said Raven. “It’s funny, but they gave us presents the first night we got there, and of course, as a young kid, you’re automatically going to like those people. They were really good at making us feel welcome and making sure all of our needs were met. They always made sure we were doing something fun.”

As wonderful as the Rogers were to Raven and her brothers, Raven still had a lot to overcome from the years of neglect she suffered.

“I suffer from mild depression,” shares Raven. “I used to have to check all doors and windows to make sure they were locked. I also have a mild eating disorder, and once had to have food close to me constantly. I guess I was afraid I might not get any more.

“It hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies. We definitely have had our problems, but we work it out. I’m very fortunate to have the parents I have now. I think if I were still with my birth mom now, I’d probably be pregnant, or on drugs. I may not even be alive.”

With Frank and Pam’s love and support, Raven is discovering her purpose in life. Which in many ways began when Frank and Pam were blessed to witness Raven’s baptism in 2014. Then this past semester at the University of Dallas, Raven began to get a clearer picture of what she wanted to do with her life. Even though Raven loved playing basketball for the school, which gave her a higher self-esteem, taught her discipline, and challenged her through competition, something in her heart was changing.

“I felt something much stronger pulling at me, kind of calling out to me to do something different,” said Raven. “I felt a much stronger need to start my future with social work and helping others, sooner rather than later. I really want to help other kids who have experienced the same things I did growing up.”

To follow Raven’s “calling,” she is transferring to a community college near her home, and she is switching majors from psychology to social work. She also contacted the local Arrow office to inquire about an internship or volunteering opportunities.

“I feel like I broke the cycle,” said Raven. “I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I think I’m a pretty good person. I work hard. I am very caring. I’m a strong Christian. I don’t drink or do drugs. I make good grades, and I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college with a degree. I think I turned out well.”

We think so too!

There are many ways to help a child who has suffered abuse or neglect. Of course, by becoming a foster parent, you’ll have the opportunity to make a direct and eternal impact, just like the Rogers had in Raven’s life. Learn more about fostering by attending one of our monthly information meetings. Details are available at www.arrow.org/meeting.

August 22, 2016



Stephen and Jandy Brentlinger, Arrow foster parents with our Beaumont, Texas office, are very committed to their faith. They are just as committed to the foster children who come into their home. So when Stephen saw our recent Facebook post showing the great need for more foster families, he was compelled to write his own Facebook post to encourage others to consider fostering.
Below is Stephen’s impassioned post…

Fostering can be hard. It can be an emotional roller coaster. It’s a family decision that affects everyone in your household. It can test your patience, love, kindness, faith, and many other things. Sometimes it seems like it might even be too much to handle. People will comment that they don’t know how you could do it, or ask how you could love a child then watch them leave your home. There are days when you might even consider quitting and running away. We have.

But then you realize that everything is totally worth it. You realize that all the risk, all the heartache, all the tears, and all the possible pain are totally worth it. Why? Because it’s never about us in the first place. Our life should be about loving and serving others, and considering everyone else higher than ourselves. Our call to foster is about loving kids that are in desperate situations that they had no control over. It’s about putting the well-being of a child far above yours. It’s about extending love and grace to someone that desperately needs it, but is hopeless to receive it apart from you. Literally, you can affect a child’s life forever. Even if they leave your home, by your plan or the states plan.

You can’t know how it will turn out, and sometimes you won’t be happy with situations. But you CAN be love and grace to a child that so desperately wants to be loved. So desperately wants to be held, fed, and cared for. A child that was not loved enough to know how special and wonderful they are. The fear of the unknown could stop you in your tracks and keep you from fostering. Or maybe, your love for others could compel you to becoming a foster parent. You could realize that literally everyday children need foster homes, and you could stand up for the hopeless and needy, and love them with all your heart! Love them how they deserve to be loved, even if it hurts later. But you know what? They also could end up being your forever child! The only way to find out, is to foster. I beg you, think and pray about fostering.

If you’re still reading this, I’ll share in a couple of sentences how we handle fostering. To sum it up, we don’t handle it. Yep, we are selfish and not capable of handling it personally. We instinctively run from tough situations. But the good news for (my foster child), is that we serve and love a God that provides all we need. We serve a God that is much bigger than anything in the world, and can provide peace, patience, strength, energy, love, and everything else needed to foster. In short for us, God gives us the strength.

I once was lost, hopeless, and in desperate need of help. I was longing to be loved and cared for in ways I didn’t even understand. I had emptiness in my life and needed to be cared for in a way that I didn’t even know how to ask about. Then God ran. He ran to me in that moment and showed me the love, grace, and mercy I so desperately needed! When I was lost, God found me. I was empty, but God filled me. I didn’t even know what I needed, but God did. Fostering/Adoption is a perfect picture of what God has done for us.

Please call/message me if you want to talk about fostering or anything.

Would you consider fostering?

Beautifully said Stephen. Thank you Stephen and Jandy, for your caring hearts and your unselfish service to kids in need!

For information on the next information meeting in your area visit www.arrow.org/meeting


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