April 29, 2016

Angela HumphriesWith few homes available for foster children over 12 years old, especially older foster teens, the future holds little promise of the type of future most 18 year-olds look forward to according to the results of the 2011 Midwest Study from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

The seven-year study indicates that when youth at the age of 18 become too old to remain in foster care, and find themselves struggling on their own without the support of a family, the odds of them successfully launching into adulthood are minimal. According to the study, 23% of them do not have a high school diploma or a GED by age 21. Half are unemployed, and those that are employed have a median annual income of $5,450. And nearly 30% are homeless by the age of 24.

Unfortunately, teenagers are typically the hardest foster children to place with a family. The majority of families that seek information on foster care are interested in fostering toward the goal of adoption. And a teenager is not who they’re looking to add to their family.

Carolyn Bishop, Vice President of Texas Programs for Arrow Child & Family Ministries explains the need: “A lot of the openings we have are with families that want to work with babies to toddler age. We have a huge shortage of openings for older foster teens, and so it’s making it hard for us to help CPS find appropriate placements for those kids.”

Granted, raising any teenager has it challenges, but Scott Lundy, CEO of Arrow Child & Family Ministries, who is raising three adopted teens himself, says there are three important components to successfully fostering a teenager.

“First, you’ve got to have a love for, and a proclivity to work with teenagers, because teens are different. Second, you have to be willing to connect with the child, because everything is about relationship. You can’t just let them do their thing in their room, and assume everything must be okay as long as they’re not doing stupid stuff. You have to take the time to check in with them on a regular basis, and not accept “fine” and “good” when you ask them about school and their friends. You’ve got to go deeper than that. And third, you need to be able give the child an appropriate level of autonomy while maintaining boundaries.

“These kids are going to mess up just like we did, and they’re probably going to mess up more than we did, because we had a stable upbringing all the way through our life that got us through adolescence, and they did not. These kids are going to push back more than normal, and part of this is based on the pattern they’ve experienced in being removed from their home, and then being moved from place to place. But what each of these kids desperately need is a family that will commit to helping them work through this tough period in their life so they can prepare for adulthood.”

Angela Humphrey, a foster parent with Arrow Child & Family Ministries, is one of those few foster parents who not only opens her home to foster teens, but specializes in fostering teenage boys. She says the most difficult aspect of fostering a teenager is gaining their trust, because so many people in their lives have let them down.

“Don’t expect a kid to be thankful and loving just because you’ve opened your home,” said Humphrey. “That comes with gaining their trust, and that takes time. Making it work takes love and patience with a lot of understanding and forgiveness.

“We lose so many of our young men to the streets and jail. I like knowing we lose some to education, jobs and becoming great parents. Watching some of my boys graduate from high school, go to college, become productive citizens, and then receiving phone calls from some just to say ‘I didn’t get it then, but I do now,’ that’s the most beautiful thing of all.”

To learn more about the need and how you can help, attend the next information meeting at the Arrow office near you. Details are available at www.arrow.org/meeting.

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March 23, 2016

shutterstock_336280856Our children are our future and a gift from God. In light of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, we’ve gathered some information on the signs of child abuse, what to do if a child comes to you, how to report child abuse, and ways to prevent child abuse.

Signs of Child Abuse

Note: This list is not exhaustive. Trust your gut instinct if you suspect abuse and report it.

  • Unexplained injuries – visible signs of abuse in the form of unexplained bruises or burns, sometimes in the shape of objects; child may have unconvincing explanation of the injury
  • Changes in behavior – scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, aggressive
  • Returning to earlier childhood behaviors – fear of the dark or strangers, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting
  • Changes in eating – the stress caused by abuse can lead to weight gain or loss
  • Fear of going home – kids may express anxiety/apprehension about leaving school or going places with the abuser
  • Changes in sleeping – frequent nightmares or difficulty falling asleep, thereby seeming tired or fatigued
  • Changes in school performance/attendance – difficulty concentrating in class, or excessive absences, especially if adults are trying to conceal injuries
  • Poor personal care/hygiene – appearing uncared for, consistently dirty or have severe body odor, lack proper clothing for the weather
  • Risky behavior – kids abused may participate in risk-taking behavior such as drug use or carrying a weapon
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors – demonstrates unusual sexual knowledge or explicit sexual language

If a Child Comes to You

Should a child come to you and report he or she is being abused, it’s important to remember the following tips.

  • Keep calm and just listen. Try to remain as neutral as possible as the child speaks to you about the abuse. Do not display disgust or shock, as the child might think it has to do with them and not about what has happened to them.
  • Don’t promise not to tell. Instead, say you’ll promise only to tell people who need to know and that you’ll let the child know beforehand.
  • Reassure the child they did the right thing by telling you.
  • Write down everything while it’s fresh in your mind.
  • Report the abuse. You have the power to help a child who is hurting and in danger. You can report anonymously should you so choose.

“Don’t let fear of getting involved prevent you from reporting concerns. It’s our responsibility as a community to prevent abuse,” says Andrea Requenes, Regional Director at Arrow Child and Family Ministries.

How to Report Child Abuse

To report cases of child abuse, contact your local Department of Family and Protective Services. In the state of Texas, this number is 1-800-252-5400. Nationally, you may contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

Ways to Prevent Child Abuse

Scott Lundy, President and CEO of Arrow Child & Family Ministries (Arrow) and President of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, declares, “There needs to be a revolution at the taxpayer level to reach out to our elected officials to demand that more funding be allocated to child abuse prevention services. We have to be able to begin to slow the rate at which children are being abused at home.  It takes the right prevention services to make this happen.”

In order to strengthen parents and families and prevent the cycle of child abuse from occurring, it’s important that parents and caregivers feel they have a support system in place and resources readily available to them. Here’s how you can help.

  • Be willing to be a support system for your neighbors and their kids and grandkids
  • Volunteer in the community by becoming a mentor to kids, or donating time or resources to community organizations
  • Help a family under stress. For example: babysitting, running errands, or helping with chores
  • Get involved in a local school by attending their events (plays, sports games, performances), join the parent-teacher organization, or even start a neighborhood watch

Additionally, make sure to check out the Safe Families for Children program. Safe Families provides breathing room and support for parents in crisis who may need help caring for their children until they can get back on their feet. Volunteers in this program aim to reduce the risk factors for child abuse by coming alongside parents before a situation escalates.

New Program Coming Soon

Arrow Child and Family Ministries in partnership with several area agencies in Houston is excited to announce a new program coming soon called ParentingHelp. Preparing to launch in April, the program will offer resources such as in-home training and support services for families at risk for abuse. For many, these resources couldn’t come at a better time. Those looking to take advantage of the program can expect to receive parenting and discipline techniques as just some of the many benefits through ParentingHelp.

Want to know more? Attend an informational meeting to learn ways you can be involved in a child’s life.

Source: https://www.childwelfare.gov/

March 1, 2016

Baileys2Recently Misty and Randy Bailey adopted Hagen after fostering him for nearly three years. During their journey, the Baileys faced every possible emotional and physical challenge any home could possibly take.

Misty and Randy Bailey started fostering with Arrow at the beginning of 2013, and one-year old Hagen was their first placement. At the time, the CPS worker indicated Hagen would most likely be adoptable since there was no family member currently taking any of the necessary steps to get him back.

Nearly a year later, Hagen’s birth mother showed up. Since she was pregnant again, she decided to start complying with CPS to get her life in order, and possibly have Hagen returned to her.

Misty had never asked Hagen to call her mom, but during his time with the Baileys, Hagen naturally began doing just that. But during Hagen’s family visits with his birth mother, she told him that Misty “isn’t your mother…I am!” At just two years old,  Hagen was confused and distressed. For Hagen, Misty and Randy Bailey were his mom and dad.

The emotional upheaval took its toll on Hagen. His bathroom training regressed, and he starting hiding soiled clothing around the house just to have some kind of control in his life. Then Hagen was hit with another devastating blow when his birth mother passed away a few weeks after a tragic accident.

Misty and Randy struggled with continuing to foster due to the extreme emotional turmoil Hagen was going through, but they never gave up. They believed this little boy’s life was in God’s hands, and through His providence Hagen would eventually be where God wanted him to be. After nearly three years of struggling, growing and loving together, prayers were answered recently when Hagen’s adoption was consummated. And yes, Hagen Wesley Bailey is exactly where God wants him to be…at home with his real mommy and daddy, Misty and Randy.

December 3, 2015

Sulfridge visitJennie Sulfridge knows how difficult the holiday season can be for foster parents and their children.

Christmas parties, traveling to see relatives, shopping outings to crowded stores and more add up to one long, stressful month. As a veteran foster parent with four adoptive daughters of her own, Jennie wanted to give advice to foster parents struggling through the holidays, and reassure them that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

She recently orchestrated a foster parent lunch at the Arrow Headquarters in Spring. Jennie not only offered her time, but she and her daughters also provided appetizers and desserts, and even made decorations and centerpieces for the occasion. Jennie and her oldest daughter, Hannah, gave advice and answered questions for a room of about 50 foster parents.

One key piece of advice was for parents to make time for their children during the holiday season. Hannah called time the greatest gift a foster parent can give to their child, and Jennie agreed.

“Their lives haven’t ever been put first,” Jennie said. “Your time is your most valuable resource for them, so even when you don’t feel like it, it’s important to invest time in your kids.”

To make sure they made time for each other during the busy holiday season, Jennie made a special Advent calendar for herself and the girls. The calendar specified a new family activity to do together for each day leading up to Christmas, such as going ice skating, or looking at Christmas lights.

Jennie also urged parents to schedule time for peace and quiet during the holidays, and suggested letting foster children know ahead of time about holiday parties and family gatherings so they feel prepared.

But perhaps the most important piece of advice Jennie gave was to be flexible.

She gave the example of one Easter where her girls were having tantrums and breakdowns, so they didn’t end up celebrating the holiday until the Tuesday afterward.

Hannah urged patience for days when foster children continually misbehave. She said she tested Jennie’s boundaries shortly after she was placed in the home, and Jennie’s patience with her eventually lead to a breakthrough.

“I had a lot of doubts about if I’d actually stay,” she said. “But I remember one week, I was bad seven days in a row, and by day eight mom hadn’t given up on me. I was reassured that I wasn’t going anywhere.”

November 5, 2015

Arrow recently joined forces with Hope For Tomorrow, a fellow Christian foster care agency in Texas, and will operate in four new cities as a result of the acquisition—San Angelo, Brownwood, San Marcos and Harlingen.

Hope For Tomorrow offices in Amarillo, Granbury and Copperas Cove will merge with existing Arrow offices, bringing new resources, staff members and foster kids into the Arrow family in those regions.

Arrow now operates 12 offices across the state, and is providing our exemplary care and services to more than 200 additional foster children, for a total of 1,200 children across the nation.

“This joining of forces makes Arrow the largest foster care agency in the State of Texas,” said Arrow CEO Scott Lundy. “This only serves to position Arrow as a leader in the National Child Welfare arena.”

To find out more about becoming a foster parent, visit www.arrow.org/foster.

new offices

October 1, 2015

Poole fam 3An Arrow family who adopted three children from foster care, two of whom have special needs, has been named Adoptive Family of the Year by the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services!

Kendrick and Rosalyn Poole had been involved in the deaf ministry at their church when they felt called to adopt a child with a hearing impairment. The couple felt especially equipped to parent a deaf child because Kendrick himself is deaf, and Rosalyn is an American Sign Language interpreter.

A search on an adoption website led them to seek out more information about a 14-year-old girl named Dynasty. Dynasty was born deaf, and had been in foster care since she was 8 years old.  During her 6 years in foster care, Dynasty had struggled through 14 foster care placements and was living in a group home. Being bounced from home to home, and not having the proper support and guidance she needed to cope with her disability, caused severe trauma in Dynasty’s life. Never had she been in a foster home that was able to communicate effectively with her in sign language.

That is, until Kendrick and Rosalyn came into the picture.

The Pooles became licensed foster parents, and finally welcomed Dynasty into their home. Dynasty felt immediately accepted. Kendrick and Rosalyn not only loved and cared for her, but could communicate with her in sign language. Six months later, she became Dynasty Poole when she was officially adopted by the Pooles.

But Rosalyn and Kendrick weren’t done. A search on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange website lead them to two brothers who had been featured on the website for more than two years. One of the brothers, Wesley, had developmental and communication challenges that required the use of sign language.  Wesley and his brother William were placed with the Pooles in October of last year, and their adoption into the growing Poole family was finalized last month. Since being placed with the Pooles, William has learned sign language and can now perfectly communicate with his brother, sister, father and mother.

“The Pooles are a wonderful family worthy of this award for what they have done for these three children,” said Mala Ganapati, Arrow’s Regional Adoption Coordinator who nominated them for the award. “They are strong advocates for their children, and give them unconditional love and acceptance. The Pooles are a testament to the fact that there are no barriers when it comes to adoption.”

September 24, 2015

Hernandez familyWhen Brenda and Francisco Hernandez decided to foster, they planned on taking in two children at the most.

But when they were asked if they would take in four brothers who had been separated most of their lives, they opened their hearts and their home to all four boys in order to keep them together. The boys’ youngest brother had already been adopted out to another family, and Brenda and Francisco wanted to ensure that the remaining four would grow up in each other’s lives.

Eli, Adam, Hugo and Brendan arrived at the Hernandez home about two years ago, and overnight Brenda and Francisco went from having no children to parenting four boys, ages 8, 6, 5 and 2.

It wasn’t easy. The boys had hardly any clothes or belongings, and they often fought. At times Brenda had doubts about continuing to foster them.

“There were days when I didn’t think I could do this anymore,” she said. “But we just prayed and prayed about it, and we prayed with the boys as well.”

Eli, the oldest, wrote Brenda a note the very first week he was placed with her, and his words really touched her heart, and gave her the motivation to persevere.

It read “You’re the best mom. Thank you for taking care of me, and feeding me, and thank you for cleaning my teeth.” (Brenda is a dental hygienist.)

“Knowing the abuse and neglect they came from, I just couldn’t let them go back.” Brenda said. “I love them like my own.”

Slowly but surely, the boys learned to share, and fought less. They also learned to trust Brenda and Francisco. At first, when the family would go to the mall or to church, the older two boys would ask “You’re not going to leave us here, are you?” But over the past two years, they have learned that Brenda and Francisco would never abandon them.

They’ve also begun to do better in school, and have started to explore their interest in sports. Brenda and Francisco helped the oldest three each find a sport to participate in at the local Boys & Girls Club. Eli has turned out to be an excellent swimmer, Adam is very good at golf, and Hugo is now the quarterback of his flag football team.

But the best change in the boys’ lives came last month when Brenda and Francisco were able to adopt them, all four of them, dispelling any uncertainty and anxiety about their future. The boys officially became Eli, Adam, Hugo and Brendan Hernandez on August 7th.

“The boys kept asking, ‘Am I really going to be a Hernandez?’” Brenda said. “It was almost too good to be true. We were all excited.”

September 17, 2015

girl by lake


Below is an excerpt from a recent update one of our team members received from a 17-year-old foster child, who recently was reunited with her mother. In the letter, the teen talks about how her foster family and Arrow staff inspired her to get a job and look into college. We are so proud of her!

I miss all the staff from Arrow. Y’all were amazing, and I hope I can help kids like me one day just like y’all helped me and so many others. I still keep in contact or try to keep in contact with my friends up there, but I’m trying to focus on work and school over everything.

The resume that Ms. Heather (Johnson, family intervention specialist,) helped me revise and the interview pointers really helped with getting the job (at Texas Roadhouse). Also, I have been looking into college. I still don’t know if I am going to go, but it doesn’t hurt to look.

One of the major things I miss though is having an older sister. Down here (with my mom) I’m back to being the oldest, so I don’t really have anyone to run to that is there in person to talk about stuff when I don’t want to talk to my mom. When I lived with (my foster mom, my foster sister) was right downstairs. I know I probably annoyed her sometimes, but seeing her and her push for success is what has made me rethink college. She is honestly a huge role model. I learned what the word RESPECT meant when I moved in there and I thank them for that. Also, I found out that not everyone is going to leave me stranded. I am happy at home and thank y’all for helping me grow as a young woman because without that help this visit would been just that—a visit. It would not have been successful (in reuniting my mom and I).  I miss all of y’all and I hope everyone is doing well, and I hope to be up visiting the Baltimore area during one of my breaks from school, and days off of work.

August 28, 2015

By Rebecca Bender

Rebecca 2Rescued victims. Have you heard this term? Maybe your heart fills with excitement, passion or joy when you think of being able to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We imagine a child like our own, taken, abducted, hopeless and helpless while trapped in a room with her teddy bear. It becomes unbearable to think of what may happen next, as a captive victim of sex trafficking. The righteous fury rises up inside us and we stand, as the army of God to fight this injustice.

Well, what happens when it doesn’t quite look like this? I am a survivor of trafficking. I was forced into prostitution for nearly six years at the age of 18- an “adult.” In my time as a trafficking advocate, I have helped dozens of girls, consulted safe home staff across the world and trained more than 5,800 community members just like you. Do you want no know how many times I have encountered the above scenario? None. Does that mean trafficking doesn’t happen? Absolutely not… trafficking is very real in our country. But, unfortunately, most people have the very wrong idea of trafficking and end up being disappointed or hurt when running to the “rescue.”

Imagine this scenario instead: your neighbor girl next door is 7. Her parents fight and dad, because of his alcoholism; is verbally abusive, yelling and throwing things against the walls most evenings. She spends her time hiding under bed, hoping his fury isn’t taken out on her. At 9, her parents divorce, and mom gets a new boyfriend. Mom has no time for her because she is enthralled with her new romance. Your neighbor begins fading into the background of importance. When she turns 10, her new step dad begins sneaking in her room at night and touching her inappropriately. She is scared and doesn’t want to hurt her mom. She puts up with it until she is 12. In middle school, she starts drinking at parties, both to escape from her home life and simply as a predisposition to her father’s alcoholism. Her mom notices the change and begins grounding her. Unable to tell her mom the truth out of fear, she runs away in the night to a party. Her step dad “just happens to notice” and calls the police who put out a pick up order on her. Cops are called because the party is too loud and she gets picked up as a runaway and put in juvenile hall. Inside, she is bullied because she is clearly “new” and the girls who are in juvie often can pick up on “fresh meat.”

Your neighbor is lost and lonely and hurting. She doesn’t know her way out, she has never seen another life modeled for her and at 13 now, lacks the cognitive reasoning to understand cause and effect. This cycle of running to avoid step-dad and stay self-medicated at parties continues, where the pickup order and juvie spirals. She is hardened. Callouses have developed around her heart. At 14 she meets a guy a party who is 24. She is flattered that the older, cute boy at the party is paying attention to her. He takes a real interest, making her feel valued, listened to and adored for the first time in her life. He asks when she has to be home and she tells him she isn’t going home. He invites her to travel, to get away for a couple days. She wants nothing more than to run to something better and this appears to be the first and only invitation in her life to escape…

Your neighbor arrives in a new city with her adult boyfriend. She is excited until he gives her a new pair of bra and underwear and tells her to go to the strip club across the street, that they need the money for the hotel. She feels pressured, afraid and doesn’t want the dream of escaping to end. The boyfriend coerces her, reminding her that it’s just dancing and her dad use to force her to do more. At least now she’s in control. It’s an empowering feeling for her to turn it around on men. Her boyfriend picks her up from the club at 2 a.m. for a week. He tells her how proud he is of her, how he knew she was special. She makes enough money to support them, even though he takes it all because he is the adult and “knows what needs to be paid.”

One night, he picks her up and there are men are in the backseat. He tells her how much they need this extra cash to get out of town and rent a home not a hotel. He wants to be a family with her and marry her when she turns 16 in a different state but they need the money to move. Just once he begs…

Her boundaries have already been expanded to a further point than most children and a small shove from her “boyfriend” pushes her over the edge. This continues and no longer is it the strip club, but now it’s Backpage ads or he’ll hit her– a far step from the verbal abuse growing up. She gets picked up by law enforcement and ends up in Freedom Place at 15.

She isn’t running from the hotel thankful to be “rescued.” She wasn’t kidnapped, nor does she have her teddy bear. She’s hardened and hard. She cusses and wants a cigarette. She misses her abusive boyfriend, which we know is a trafficker, but she doesn’t see the fraud and wants to be the family he promised. You want to help her, but she looks at you like you’re one of her school teachers, annoyed and untrusting.

Why does this situation not make us want to run to help her? Because we don’t see the back story the day we arrive to help? We see an angry young girls who flips you off and cusses saying she’s going back as soon as her time here is done. Why invest? Why get close? I’ll tell you why:

We must reach our youth with the same love and compassion and empathy that Christ calls us to. We must push the “rescue victims” out of our thoughts or we’ll be disappointed. She is hurting and needs time to let her hardened heart soften before she’ll let you in. She asks herself, “Why did the volunteer get the hand of cards dealt to her while I got a life of pain?” She is jealous and mad at you for the privilege you were born with. She is afraid of what her life holds when she gets out. Will she be back with her step dad? Will she live in a foster family who doesn’t get it? What really does the future hold with a drop-out education, a minimum wage job and no job skills to really put her in a position to be economically empowered.

It’s not the kidnapped version, but it is the majority of what we deal with here in America. We need people to look past the tough façade, and see a hurt child who has built walls around herself. We need to stop acting like we have it all together and share a bit of our struggles, proving more and more that we haven’t had a silver spoon either. We need to help identify resources in the community for her exit plan: an internship, a home where she can go to college or technical school, incentives for completing programs and a career/life coach to help her make choices for her future that will keep her out of poverty. We need her to get counseling to understand the complex trauma of exploitation and healthy ways to stay connected to an unhealthy family for the rest of her life. This is the reality of the work. It’s complex, it’s individualized for each girl and it’s hard. But, it is also incredibly rewarding. Being diligent and watching the transformation of lives. No, we don’t win every one but we do win many! No greater love is this than to lay down your life for a friend.

“She’s the daughter of a king and even though she doesn’t know it yet, we will love her until she does know.” – Christina Rangel: Trafficking Survivor and Advocate

Rebecca Bender is a nationally known and recognized Survivor Leader in the efforts to eradicate modern day slavery. She has trained people such as directors of FBI and former President Jimmy Carter. She is the author of Roadmap to Redemption, a faith based work book for survivors. Her organization, Rebecca Bender Ministries is the first to offer online mentoring classes and webinars and specializes in rural America. In her free time, you can find her finishing her Master’s Degree at Bethel University and spending time with her husband and their four lively daughters.

August 20, 2015
Emma Showalter
Emma gives away books at the Spring Back to School event.

Instead of getting birthday presents from her friends, Emma Showalter decided to use her ninth birthday as an opportunity to collect books for Arrow foster children.

Emma said she got the idea after seeing the film Annie. The movie sparked a conversation about foster care between Emma and her mom, Jennifer Showalter. After discussing some of the difficulties kids in foster care face, Emma asked her mom “So what do we do? Do we just wish them well and send them on their way?”

That comment lead to a discussion about ways to help children in foster care, and eventually, Emma decided that she would use her upcoming birthday to collect books for Arrow foster kids.

Emma collected more than 100 books for the kids, and made bookmarks. She set up a table at the Spring office’s back to school event, where the kids could come and pick out a book and bookmark of their own.

“I liked giving out the books and bookmarks,” Emma said. “It was fun to see how excited the kids were when they got a book to keep.”

Thanks so much to the Showalter family! Emma’s heart for giving has truly inspired us.






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