NEWARK – Several of those who attended a local town hall on Thursday advocating for more families to take teenagers into foster care wore t-shirts with an important message:
“Every child is A caring adult far from a success,” the quote said.
It’s from foster parent Josh Shipp, and it hits home, especially now during the holiday season. “We have 1,000 adolescents without foster care,” said Dr. Mubarak Awad, who founded the National Youth Advocacy Program (NYAP) 43 years ago. “We have a crisis with our young people, and we have to open up to them. It is a Christian thing, to give them hope. We are saving this person, this family and the community.”
Adolescents are unable to stay in their usual homes for a variety of reasons, most of which are unrelated to their cause, including caregiver abuse, neglect, addiction, delinquency, family conflict, or substance abuse. NYAP relies on host families and its own professionals to put them on the path to a normal and productive life. And, hopefully, a reunion with their family.
“In today’s world, teens experience immense stress in their lives, even more so when they are in foster care,” said Jennifer Geiger, NYAP regional director for Newark. “At this gathering, seasoned foster parents who have cared for teens for years share their challenges and the rewards of welcoming older children. I hope more people come forward to join the gathering. ‘Team NYAP as part of our mission, to provide a home for any child who needs a safe and supportive place to thrive as an individual. “
A panel of foster parents, former foster teens and NYAP staff shared their positive experiences Thursday at Grove By The River in Newark, in a bid to encourage more foster families to teens. The event was called Back To Our Roots.
Randy and Teresa Fraunfelter began their homestay trip in 1990 when, as Teresa put it, “we were approached by a YMCA social worker. I trained gymnastics and my husband coached football. They have three biological children, eight adopted and six young people in foster care.
Their adopted son, Clayton, now 31, now works with teenagers himself. “I love it, because they can defend themselves,” he said. The Fraunfelters also hit Brandon and Melissa Bottomley, foster parents for seven years, mostly for teenagers. They have six young people in foster care and two dependent sons.
“We met host families at the church,” said Melissa. “The Fraunfelters introduced that to us. Our kids played baseball together in Mound City. I love having teenagers because they’re independent, and we can help them become the person they’re going to be.”
“My wife and I were trying to have another child, and it wasn’t working,” Brandon admitted. “We looked at adoption, and then Wayman walked into our lives (as a teenager in foster care). It was an adventure, but he prepared us for life.”
Wayman Garrett, now 21 and a Newark High School graduate, joined the Bottomleys when he was 14. “I bounce back almost every year,” he said. “But they really cared about me. When I went to the hospital, they came. Now I work and have my own place.”
The Bottomleys also hosted Jeriah Cooperrider, now 20 and currently pursuing a biology degree at Otterbein after graduating from Newark in 2019. “I love the conversation and the connection we have,” a- he declared. “We go back and forth, but it’s love.”
Nathan and Theresa Green began fostering in 2003 and now have five daughters aged 16 to 18.
“My wife can’t have kids, and one day she came home and said, ‘Let’s go to foster classes,'” Nathan recalls. “I said, okay. We adopted two very young children first. The teenagers we have didn’t do anything wrong (they were placed in foster care).”
Theresa Green told Kinicia Childress to give foster care a try, and she hasn’t regretted it, welcoming 15-19-year-old girls while being a parent to two young adults. Her youngest is in the process of becoming a licensed foster parent herself.
One of the young people placed for Childress was Diamond Whitner, now 20 years old and studying physiotherapy. “I saw host family movies, and it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t like that at all,” she said. “I was in college, working and had my own apartment, all when I was 18. I can also teach them (the elderly) music and fashion.”
Lisa Dodson has been a foster parent since 1997, and her home currently consists of teenagers. She also has five adopted children. “There is no better gift than knowing you’ve made a positive change in someone’s life by being there for them,” Dodson said.
According to Dr. Awad, NYAP currently works with 3,000 foster children per day, in 10 states (Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana and Nevada). Two of those states were added this year, and he plans to add five more between 2022 and 2025. He founded NYAP in 1978 in Ohio, based on his own experiences in orphanages as a child. . Newark has two offices, one in Zanesville and four in Columbus.
There are 1,700 NYAP workers nationwide who help foster families with their youngsters. One of them is Erica Custer, a mother of nine who was in foster care for seven years, graduated in social work and is now a NYAP treatment coordinator.
“I had two twins when they were 15, and there were some tough times,” she said. “But it’s all in these little moments. As much as I give to them, they give to me, and they become good people.”
Favored by NYAP
Those interested in becoming foster parents can visit www.nyap.org or call 1-877-692-7226. Newark offices are located at 15 N. Third Street (740-349-7511) and 2112 Cherry Valley Road (740-755-4500).
The main objective is to reunite young people with their families. Host families receive a monthly reimbursement to pay for the youth’s basic expenses. In most cases, health insurance is covered by Medicaid.
Twitter: @ noz75