It is saddening to think that many children and young adults in our community and the rest of the world are without a home. There are families everywhere that are looking to adopt and make a child part of their loving family. Adoption, while such a beautiful and selfless act, is not without its struggles. Luckily, there are people who care and make it their mission to help bring families together while making a real difference in the lives and relationships formed in local families.
Founded in 2007, in McKinney, Embrace Texas is an organization that partners with churches to provide programs for families considering fostering or adopting children. Denise Kendrick, the program director of Embrace Texas, says, “My husband and I, while foster parents, realized that we needed specialized parenting training and support to care for abused and neglected children. We began hosting support groups for foster and adoptive moms and dads.” Ms. Kendrick describes her job, explaining, “I get to dream up new programs to support families and ways to engage local churches in caring for foster children. I currently oversee our support groups, respite nights, volunteer training, mom’s retreat, parenting training, transitional services for foster youth and meeting tangible needs of children in care through donation drives.”
There is a process to the organization. Mary Wells, the program coordinator at Embrace Texas, explains, “Embrace Texas is not a child-placing agency. There are many fine agencies in the Dallas/Fort Worth area doing the work of licensing families and placing children. We have identified gaps in service when it comes to vulnerable children and have stepped up to meet these needs. Embrace Texas not only serves local families, but we also train churches and communities across the nation how to replicate the services we offer. We also advocate for foster and adoptive children on a state and national level. We encourage everyone to consider how they can be a part of caring for children in need. If you do not feel called to open your home, we have numerous volunteer opportunities available year round.”
Embrace Texas’ local mission sits upon a few core goals: family support, recruitment, transition services and child advocacy. The ability to support families is basic, but it is an extremely essential foundational principle of any orphan care ministry effort and is the first step in recruiting families before they consider becoming a foster or adoptive family. Embrace Texas provides families with one-on-one parent coaching and placement resources including clothes, beds and equipment for when their new child comes into a foster, adoptive or kinship home.
There are many opportunities for people in the community to get involved. Ms. Wells encourages those who wish to volunteer to visit their website to see the full list of current needs. She says, “Some volunteers fill regular roles in our tutoring program, office staff and support groups. Other volunteers and volunteer teams step up to help us prepare for large events and fundraisers.”
There are many benefits of putting yourself out there and giving of your time and energy. Ms. Wells, providing insight and a look at the expectations of the program, says, “Prepare yourself to fall in love when you start volunteering with foster children and the families who care for them! So many of our volunteers start out hosting donation drives or helping with small events and feel called to be more involved.” She continues, “It is an incredibly rewarding feeling to help a child who has faced such hardship overcome challenges and succeed. We also have many opportunities for those not interested in working directly with children. There is so much work to be done, we can find a perfect way for you to use your gifts and talents to serve local foster children.” If you or anyone you know would like to take part in Embrace Texas’ legacy by volunteering to help directly alongside the children, a background check is required.
Hundreds of children enter foster care in Collin County each year. Many times, these children have challenging behaviors or developmental delays from the abuse or neglect they have endured. Ms. Kendrick adds, “With support and training, we have seen parents go from just surviving to really thriving as they care for the children in their home.” She continues, “We get to cheer on families as they develop the unique skills and approach that will allow hurting children to flourish and feel safe.”
Ms. Wells says, “Embrace Texas’ services and resources help keep foster families healthy and prepared to care for foster children. Some children in foster care cannot be reunited with their biological parents. In these cases, Embrace Texas begins recruiting to find the perfect adoptive family to provide a loving, forever home for each child. Once these children are adopted, Embrace Texas is there for families every step of the way.”
Even though many children each year find a foster, adoptive or kinship home, Ms. Wells explains, “Sadly, many teens in our area ‘age-out’ of foster care at age 18, with little more than the clothes on their back and no permanent, loving family. Embrace Texas comes alongside these teens to help them successfully transition into independent life.” The program does all it can to ensure hope for teens who have aged out of foster care programs.
Embrace Texas is unique because it is the only program in Collin Country that recruits families for children who may be unhappy in foster care. The executive director of Embrace Texas, Bruce Kendrick, says, “Many organizations desire to raise their brand in hopes of becoming big enough to encompass the needs of all the children in their community or across the world. We understand a nonprofit cannot be the answer for all of these children’s needs, so we work to build and equip the largest network of volunteers, advocates and families on our planet and the local church.” He continues, “It is in this approach that churches and families begin to see themselves as the solution rather than an outsourced agency or organization who act as the professionals. We firmly believe if churches cannot or do not respond, the needs of children will go unmet, no matter how large our organization ever grows.”
Ms. Wells and the other staff members know their program is unique. She says, “We have a memorandum of understanding with the state of Texas that gives us the unique opportunity to get to know foster children and share their story with the community in hopes that their forever family will be found. This recruitment effort, called the ‘Second Story,’ is the first program of its kind in Texas.” In addition to their recruitment efforts, this is the first time churches are collaborating across the county to empty the “waiting child” population in Collin County. “We will not stop until every child has a home and homes are open, approved and waiting when the needs arise again,” Ms. Wells says.
One of the most important things about Embrace Texas is that the people who volunteer and work there love what they do. Mr. Kendrick explains that the most rewarding thing about working for Embrace Texas is “helping parents who have opened their homes to these children with the best of intentions move beyond their expectations and realize the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their own lives as well as their family’s.” There is nothing quite like seeing the lives of adults change through the healing of a child’s trauma within their family. Mr. Kendrick enjoys working alongside churches that greatly desire to care for vulnerable children and families, but simply do not know what to do or how to do it. “Developing church ministries beyond donation drives and into champions who are changing the outcomes for children in foster care in their community is a true joy because it means we are multiplying ourselves and empowering God’s people,” he says.
Embrace Texas is an immensely inspiring organization that helps families evolve and become the best they can be during the adoption process and beyond. Ms. Kendrick says, “I am inspired when I see lives being changed and saved. Children who would not otherwise have a family are finding hope and healing in the arms of loving parents because of the work we are doing here in Collin County. We believe that every child deserves a safe, loving family home and will not stop working until this dream is a reality for every child.”
Do you know a family that could benefit from the services that Embrace Texas offers? With such a unique set of challenges that hopeful adoptive and foster families face, knowing there is support and care available makes all the difference in the often-lengthy and always life-changing process. For additional information, go to embracetexas.org.