KidzKamp wraps up another great weekend

Nearly 70 kids had a blast last weekend during three fun-filled days at the 2018 KidzKamp in Salina, Kansas. Once again, Saint Francis staff and volunteers hosted children from all over the state at the Webster Conference Center, bringing smiles to the faces of children in need of a few days of carefree summer fun.

Each year, KidzKamp gives children in foster care a chance to cast off their concerns and to forget – if only briefly – the stress, frustration, and uncertainty they deal with daily.

For many, KidzKamp is the best time of year.

Boys and girls ages 8-12 can be themselves, learn and play carefree, and make new friends – friends who understand their situation better than anyone else can.

Many also look forward to seeing brothers and sisters who are living with other foster families. Although Saint Francis tries hard to place siblings within the same family, it’s not always possible to keep them together. For such siblings, KidzKamp offers a chance to reunite with a brother or sister.

It wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of people like Todd Hadnot and the dozens of Saint Francis employees and community members who volunteer their time to make it happen.

It’s hard work, but deeply rewarding. That must be why so many offer their time and resources every year to bring a few days of joy into a child’s life.

To learn how you can support KidzKamp, either financially or as a volunteer, visit The Saint Francis Foundation here.

 

World Refugee Day celebrates courage and resilience

Saint Francis Migration Ministries (SFMM) hosted a celebration yesterday in Wichita to commemorate World Refugee Day, a day set aside each year to honor the courage, sacrifice, and resilience of refugees around the world.

It was a festive event, with booths, food, music, crafts, booths, and games for the kids. Several churches, along with many of our community partners and friends, also participated. It was a wonderful celebration of friendship and community that highlighted and honored our shared humanity.

Here are a few facts about refugees, courtesy Global Giving:

  • Of the 65 million persons forcibly displaced around the world, about 21 million are refugees.
  • Each day, about 42,500 people flee their homes to seek protection within the borders of their own country or other countries.
  • Nearly 90 percent of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.
  • Of the 21 million refugees worldwide, more than half are children.

Saint Francis Migration Ministries helps those fleeing violence or persecution in their home countries find safety and security in the United States. As an affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries, we help asylum-seekers resettle and build new lives in Wichita, Kansas.

SFMM provides essential support to refugees approved through the U.S. Department of State’s Resettlement Program. Most clients resettled in Wichita come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and Burma. Many have lived for years in refugee camps abroad while waiting for approval of their eligibility status by the Departments of State and Homeland Security.

Our work begins while our clients are still overseas as we plan for their arrival and mobilize services and resources necessary for successful resettlement. Our face-to-face work starts when we greet clients at the airport and welcome them to their new home. Then, with help from our network of community volunteers and partners, we provide support with housing, food, clothing, furnishing, and health screenings.

You can learn more here.

Want to help? There are lots of ways to volunteer:

  • Mentor a family
  • Set up an apartment for new arrivals
  • Organize special events
  • Help in the office.
  • Serve on the Welcome Team
  • Serve as an English tutor

Churches, individuals, and civic groups can also help by contributing gifts of household items, hygiene kits, and other necessities.

You can also give financially. Visit The Saint Francis Foundation to learn how.

Saint Francis at The Mount

Saint Francis recently announced an exciting new partnership with the Congregation of St. Joseph. Here are the details in case you missed it.

Saint Francis Community Services has leased the former convent of the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Wichita and is readying the 68,000-square-foot building to accommodate an array of early childhood development, independent living, health care, and life skills programs for children in foster care, their families, and newly resettled refugees.

The building and operations will be known as Saint Francis at The Mount, and will include community partnerships with Early Head Start and Head Start, among others.

Nearly 40 Sisters of St. Joseph have moved into a recently built 57,000-square-foot center at the south end of the property. The Sisters, many of whom are retired teachers, administrators and nurses, will be active volunteers and mentors in Saint Francis’ programs, especially those involving infants and children. Additionally, youth in independent living at The Mount may have the opportunity for employment with the Congregation.

“We are both humbled and blessed to have this opportunity at The Mount to help us further meet the needs of vulnerable children and families in Wichita,” said The Very Reverend Robert N. Smith, Dean and CEO of Saint Francis Community Services. “Through service to others, the spiritual missions of Saint Francis and the Sisters of St. Joseph are intertwined. Both organizations are advocates for systemic changes and tangible measures that improve lives and strengthen family bonds. To enhance the welfare of children and families, there could not be a more perfect union.”

Sr. Marguerite O’Brien CSJ, from the Congregation’s Leadership Team, agrees: “We are excited about welcoming Saint Francis Community Services and those that they serve to our campus. As two organizations committed to serving vulnerable populations and the emerging needs of our world, we see this as a wonderful time of possibilities.”

Saint Francis has already begun Phase I of its transition into The Mount and will continue in three phases to be completed by 2021. Existing spaces are being repurposed for offices, training areas, an onsite daycare, and independent living quarters. In Phase II, space will be dedicated to behavioral health programs, so Saint Francis’ clients may have access to these services all under one roof.

In all, about 50 new staff members will be hired by Saint Francis as programming expands at The Mount. Specific programs include:

PHASE I (now underway)

  • Independent Living for teens and young adults who are about to age out of foster care custody. Saint Francis will provide housing for 20 youth ages 16 and older, and assist them with obtaining a high school diploma or GED, job training, life skills training, and parenting classes.
  • Early Head Start and Head Start will sublease space from Saint Francis at The Mount. Early Head Start will offer services for 15 newborn to 3-year-olds and Head Start will provide services for 20 3- to 5-year-olds, including children in foster care served by Saint Francis.
  • Saint Francis Migration Ministries, which assists in the local resettlement of refugees approved through the U.S. Department of State’s Resettlement Program. More than 80 refugees were resettled in Wichita last year, largely from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Burma. Saint Francis Migration Ministries helps refugees with housing, food, clothing, furnishings, language skills, access to medical care, and job readiness training during their first 90 days in the community. 
  • Saint Francis Community Services’ administrative offices for the Wichita area. Administrative and training facilities from Saint Francis’ 4415 E. Harry office in Wichita have moved to The Mount, freeing up space in the East Harry location to provide additional client services.

 PHASE II

  • Behavioral Healthcare Program. Already licensed for the provision of substance use programs at its facilities in Salina and Kansas City, Saint Francis will seek an additional license for a Wichita program offering outpatient services at The Mount. A licensed psychologist will be hired, as well. Plans also call for the eventual offering of telemedicine services.

 PHASE III

  • Independent Living for teens and young adults who have already aged out of foster care custody. This is a desperately needed service, as more than 200 young people who were formerly in foster care are currently homeless in Wichita. Saint Francis is currently working with United Way of the Plains, Wichita Children’s Home and other non-profits to obtain a HUD grant in support of this program.

“We are on the cusp of building one of the most comprehensive community partnerships in the country, all with the focus on children and families,” Fr. Smith said. “We could not do this without the generous support of the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph, and we sincerely hope the five-year lease we have begun turns into an ongoing commitment for years to come. We are all dedicated to making The Mount a community success story, as well as a national model that demonstrates how shared resources and missions can make a remarkable difference in a community.”

‘Our hope is always to help those who need it most’

This spring, at Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas, Debra McKenzie gathered a small group of students around her to discuss the health risks of cigarette and marijuana smoke on their lungs. One 18-year-old student moved in close to McKenzie and whispered that he had already quit smoking marijuana because he’s on probation. When she asked why he started using it in the first place, he said he had been depressed ever since his cousin was shot and killed. He just wanted the pain to go away.
 We run into that a lot,” says McKenzie. “Many of these kids start these behaviors to block out some of the stuff that has happened to them.”
Saint Francis mental health therapist Godswill Chuka, left, visits with a student during a recent Youth Health Day at Schlagle High School.

 

McKenzie, Saint Francis clinical director for community-based services, sensed why the student had confided in her. He needed help.That’s why she likes to use outreach events to connect with kids who need help learning to cope with depression, overcome addiction, or deal with behavioral issues. A community outreach project of Saint Francis Community Services, Youth Health Day provides health and dental screenings to students at all 13 middle and high schools in Kansas City, Kansas. Working in partnership with the school district and with the nursing programs at Kansas City Kansas Community College and Metropolitan Community College, McKenzie and her staff focus on prevention by identifying potential health problems before they grow more serious. That includes mental health issues.

“I told him that in our ADAPT and mental health programs, we work with students just like him to find new ways to deal with depression and pain,” she said. “I told him I was sure we could help him and asked if he’d like to give us a try. Without hesitation, he said, ‘Yes,’ and gave me his phone number.”

They’re just two of the programs Saint Francis provides in Kansas City, but ADAPT and mental health treatment are essential pieces of the Episcopal nonprofit’s array of child and family services. ADAPT (Adolescent/Adult Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment) provides multi-level outpatient alcohol and drug treatment within a therapeutic setting for persons struggling with substance abuse. Most of Saint Francis’ adolescent clients have been court-ordered to receive treatment, which means they often lack motivation to participate. So, to ensure they show up to get the help they need, Saint Francis even provides transportation to counseling sessions.

“As part of our mental health services, we also offer psychological assessments” said McKenzie. “Through our collaboration with the University of Kansas School of Medicine, we can provide psychiatric and medication evaluations. Our program fills a gap because Wyandotte County has a shortage of psychiatrists who serve indigent and low-income populations. Often the only other place where clients on Medicaid can receive services is through the Community Mental Health Center, which has long waiting lists. We can shorten the wait period for clients who need help.”

Saint Francis currently provides substance and mental health treatment for about 75 persons, most of whom are between the ages of 12 and 19. But clients don’t have to be youngsters to receive help. Nor, must they be low-income or referred by the courts. Anyone with an assessment indicating they need treatment can self-refer and get help.

Yet, most of Saint Francis’ work in Kansas City centers on struggling and at-risk young people. The ministry also offers the HEART (Healthy Empowering Adolescent Relationship Training) program, which helps young people develop self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship and decision-making skills. And, as in the rest of Kansas, Saint Francis provides foster care in Kansas City, which includes an anger management program for teens dealing with trauma.

Service to children and families is built into the DNA of Saint Francis Community Services, and its story of ministry is something The Very Rev. Chas Marks enjoys sharing with both his diocese and the rest of the Church. He’s a busy man. Priest In Charge of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church and Dean of the Northwest-Metro Deanery, Marks also serves as Saint Francis’ Senior Advisor for Community and Church Relations.

“Saint Francis is providing life-affirming services to an underserved population in the Kansas City Metro,” said Marks. “I get to share the story of the good work Saint Francis is doing in Kansas City and in other parts of the world with our local community and churches. There are so many opportunities for individuals and parishes to partner with Saint Francis to provide healing to children and families in Kansas City and beyond.”

When Marks isn’t pastoring, he’s talking about Saint Francis in pulpits and at coffee klatches throughout The Diocese of West Missouri. He hopes to meet friends and partners willing to join Saint Francis in its ministry of service to those most in need — the overlooked, the marginalized, the powerless. It’s a mission Saint Francis shares with the Church, and it’s a mission of hope.

Dozens of young people and adults regularly pass through the office doors of Saint Francis to receive therapeutic treatment for substance use or other behavioral issues. Some days, the clients include parents attending a support group because McKenzie and her colleagues always try to include the family in a client’s treatment. That’s because Saint Francis believes strong families produce healthy and happy children.

“Our hope,” said McKenzie, “is always to help those who need it most, especially those who lack the resources, the knowledge, the skills, or the support to help themselves. That’s why we’re here.”

To learn more or to arrange a visit to your church, visit The Saint Francis Foundation here.

This story was originally written for “Spirit”, a publication of the Diocese of West Missouri. Go here to access the “Spirit” homepage and read more articles related to the work of the Episcopal Church in West Missouri.

Saint Francis Migration Ministries will celebrate World Refugee Day, and you’re invited

In honor of World Refugee Day 2018, Saint Francis Migration Ministries, Saint Francis Community Services’ Wichita-based Refugee Resettlement program, will host a free celebration featuring live music and dancing, food, crafts, family-friendly activities, children’s soccer games and more on Wednesday, June 20, from 4 – 8 p.m.  at Saint Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 2211 S. Bluff St.

“On World Refugee Day – designated by the United Nations to be held every year on June 20 – we honor the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees and celebrate those who have become our friends and neighbors here in Wichita,” said Angela Smith, Corporate Director of Mission Engagement for Saint Francis. “For decades, refugees from all over the world have been embraced by Wichitans, and our community has become stronger and more culturally enriched because of it.”

More than 20 area churches, arts groups, and other non-profits will host booths offering a variety of crafts, games and activities for all ages. In case of inclement weather, the celebration will continue inside the church.

Popcorn, snow cones and other snacks will be available for free. Food trucks will offer food for purchase from The Kamayan Truck, Noble House Hawaiian Foods, and Drury Ln. Bakery.

A partial list of activities includes:

  • Traditional African dances performed by area high school students
  • Live music performances
  • Free craft projects for children
  • Children’s soccer games
  • Hand-made craft items for sale

In addition to Saint Francis-Migration Ministries, a partial list of those hosting activities or booths include:

  • MarkArts
  • The Treehouse
  • Kansas Children’s Service League
  • Immigrant Family Support Network
  • Bethany Lutheran Church
  • Pine Valley Christian Church
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Saint Francis Migration Ministries, through its affiliation with Episcopal Migration Ministries and the U.S. Department of State’s Resettlement Program, has helped to resettle more than 475 refugees and their families over the past six years. Most of the refugees are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Burma, and were approved for resettlement in Wichita through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

To learn more about World Refugee Day or any Saint Francis Migration Ministries programs call (316) 977-9276 or visit The Saint Francis Foundation here.

‘if you help them, if you care for them, you will grow to love them’

Lately, we’ve been celebrating Saint Francis foster parents who provide security, care, and love every day to children in need.

Foster parents see firsthand the remarkable ways children respond to structure and acceptance. They know well the transformative power of love to heal broken lives and families. 

Today, we share the story of Gabriel and Christa, who were recently named Saint Francis’ Kansas Foster Family of the Year for 2017. Once you hear their story, you’ll know why. 

Gabriel Downey didn’t know what to do. He’d never been around a child with such severe autism. How was he supposed to relate to the kid when he didn’t even know how to communicate with him? So, Gabriel spent the first three days just observing, keeping his distance until he could get a handle on it. On the fourth day, he got a phone call.

“It was my mom, telling me my aunt had passed away,” he said. “My aunt was like a second mother to me. After the call, I went into the living room and sat down and began to tell Christa. I started crying. Then … I don’t know why … but he must have picked up on how upset I was. Bubby just sat on my lap and put his head on my chest, like he was trying to tell me everything was going to be okay.”

The experience still chokes up the tough-looking, tattooed Gabriel. For Christa, his wife, it was just one more thing to love about the new 15-year-old boy in their home.

Licensed since 2016, Christa and Gabriel decided to try fostering after getting to know the foster parents – and eventual adoptive parents – of Gabriel’s great-niece. Initially, they planned to provide only respite and emergency care. And that’s all they did for a while – until they heard about a boy.

Between the two of them, Christa and Gabriel have three biological children, two of whom have high-functioning autism. That, and the fact that Christa is an elementary school special needs para educator, made their home seem a logical place for “Bubby.”

“A friend of mine who works at the school with me also works at Saint Francis,” said Christa. “She said, ‘You need to ask about this boy. No one else is able to keep him.’ Our caseworker was doubtful, and said ‘You’ve already got enough craziness in your house, but if you think you can handle it, you can try.’ For two months, she called every day to ask if we were okay.”

For Gabriel and Christa, though, there was never any question. They knew they were the boy’s last best hope.

“He was nonverbal with severe special needs,” said Christa, “and he had slept in eight different homes in two weeks. Autistic children need structure, so he didn’t have a place where he felt safe. Unfortunately, when people can’t handle kids like him, the child often ends up in an institution. We feared that might be the next step for him, and for us, that was not an option.”

Still, at first they wondered what they’d gotten themselves into. Gabriel says the boy came into the house “like a whirlwind, a tornado of him.” Although, he had autism like their other children, his was much more severe. Gradually, though, he settled down. As the Downey family patiently applied structure and routine, he began to feel more secure. Now, he’s happy and acts as though he’s always been a member of the family.

“I did, however, notice that when I called him by his name, he wouldn’t always respond,” said Gabriel. “I’d always called my brother ‘Bubba’ growing up, so I thought I’d try the same with him. But I didn’t want to confuse the two, so instead of calling him ‘Bubba’ like my brother, I started calling him ‘Bubby.’ He seemed to respond well to that and still does. Even his biological siblings call him Bubby now.”

Bubby sees his biological siblings often because Christa and Gabriel have forged a strong, supportive relationship with his mother. They all visit the Downey home in Park City, Kansas, often – for cook-outs on holidays and other special events. She’s a single mother with four other children, all with high functioning autism. It’s a full-time job taking care of them herself. Christa and Gabriel have told her they’d like to adopt Bubby, and she has said okay.

“For her to be the best mom she can be and focus on her other four children, she knows this is a good option,” said Christa. “With Bubby, she’s ‘Mommy Number 1’ and I’m ‘Mommy Number 2,’ and we intend to stay connected with her.”

So, Bubby now has a permanent home and lots of people in his life who care about him. He’s a testament to what love can do for the human person. Christa says her Saint Francis caseworkers like to half-jokingly ask, “Is this the same child?”

“It really has been a great experience,” said Gabriel. “You just have to remember to have understanding and patience with special needs kids. They’re going to have their moments, but you need to realize that what they’re doing makes sense to them at the time. There are fun days and there are challenging days, but overall it’s deeply rewarding.”

“Take one day at a time,” added Christa. “Don’t try to imagine how things will be in six months. You can’t plan for that. You have to focus on the next five minutes. Deal with what’s going on right now. Special needs kids will sometimes push you away because they don’t have control over anything else. It’s not that they don’t love you, they just don’t want your help right now. But I promise you, if you help them, if you care for them, you will grow to love them. Every day is something new.”

Love is the whole point

May is National Foster Care Month, so we’re taking time to celebrate some special Saint Francis foster parents who have opened their hearts and their homes to children in need.

Foster parents see every day the remarkable ways children respond to structure, security, and acceptance. They witness firsthand the transformative and life-affirming power of love in the lives of the children they serve.

Saint Francis provides foster care in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas. Nebraska foster parents Adam and BryAnna Brock are moved to foster in large part by their faith. Here is their story.

Two years ago, Adam and BryAnna Brock returned home from work to find their neighbor waiting on their stoop. Veteran foster parents, their neighbors had just taken in a sibling set of four, children from another neighborhood family. Three more siblings needed a place to stay. How about it? “Why not,” thought the Brocks. “We have the room.” Though the children didn’t stay with them long, the experience did.

“That was the first time we’d ever thought about foster care,” said BryAnna. “But we figured that if we could take in three kids, then why aren’t we looking at this as an option for us? What other children might come into our lives?”

Transplants from the East Coast (Maine and Massachusetts), the couple attended school together at York College in York, Nebraska. After graduation, they stayed in Nebraska, moving to Grand Island, where BryAnna taught first grade and Adam taught middle school. They’d been trying to have their own baby for at least a couple years when they began foster parenting class. So, it seemed natural to start by caring for infants.

“Our first placement was a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy,” said BryAnna. “We’d wanted to foster babies, but once those two walked through our door, that didn’t matter anymore. They were sweet kids who needed a home. They had bounced around a lot; I think we were their sixth home in two months. I remember the little boy having a temper tantrum, and I just held him and sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ until he calmed down. We realized then that this is what we need to be doing.”

After that first sibling set, a few respite placements followed. Then Daetric and Mashea arrived.

“Daetric was six, Mashea was four, and we were their fourth foster home,” said BryAnna. “By then, we were ready to adopt any children who came into our care.”

So they did. In April 2016, they adopted the brother and sister in Lincoln.

“It was a fun day,” said Adam. “We dressed in our finest and filled the courtroom with friends and family. The judge was so kind to them. We’d done bonding therapy with Joan (Schwan, executive director of Saint Francis in Nebraska), and she helped us make sure the kids understood what was happening. Others had promised to adopt them before, so telling them they were going to be adopted didn’t mean much. Leading up to that day, we worked to make sure they understood that yes, this is it. This is the day you get your forever family. There’s no turning back.”

Among those celebrating were members of Adam and BryAnna’s church family.

“The church is our support network,” said Adam. “It started with our neighbor down the street. Also our preacher and his wife who had done foster care for years. Hearing their stories encouraged us as we prepared to foster and to adopt.”

Within a year of getting their own license, their preacher passed away from cancer. That event, along with the adoptions, prompted the Brocks to make some changes.

“I’d already been working in ministry part-time while teaching,” said Adam. “Once Daetric and Mashea entered the picture, I had children to attend to along with school and church. I couldn’t do all three, so I chose to go into the ministry full-time. We decided, too, that BryAnna would stay home to care for Daetric and Mashea and our two other foster children. The load was too great otherwise.”

And now that their preacher has passed away, Adam has assumed his duties, too.

Shortly after the adoption, the Brocks received a 9-month-old boy. His 3-week-old sister was two months premature and remained in the hospital another two weeks before joining her brother. That was about seven months ago. Now, they’re all deeply attached to each other, but it’s uncertain whether the Brocks will be able to adopt the children. If and when they leave, there will be plenty of heartache to go around. Yet, BryAnna is philosophical about it.

“I talk to a lot of people who say, ‘I could never foster, I’d get too attached,’” she said. “But that’s the point. Children need to get attached. If I didn’t bond with this sweet baby girl we took home at 4-weeks-old, she wouldn’t learn to love. Yes, it’s hard to think she might live somewhere else, but we’re adults. We can handle it. Children need attachment, they need to be loved.”

‘This is what we signed up for’

May is National Foster Care Month, so we’re taking time to celebrate some special Saint Francis foster parents who have opened their hearts and their homes to children in need.

Foster parents see every day the remarkable ways children respond to structure, security, and acceptance. They witness firsthand the transformative and life-affirming power of love in the lives of the children they serve.

The Ramirez family has seen it, and it has enriched their lives. Here’s their story.

Adrian and Britanie Ramirez warned Saint Francis from the start – no babies. They’d signed up to foster children aged five to seven. That was it. They already had their hands full with three pre-teen daughters and had neither the time nor the energy for infants. Days after licensing, they received a call from their Saint Francis worker. A 2-day-old infant, still in the hospital, needed a home. Would the Ramirez family take her?

“Britanie had actually gone to the hospital first to see if it was something we could handle,” said Adrian. “The next thing I know, she calls and says, ‘She has to come home with me.’ I said okay, but I was nervous. Britanie held her like a pro, but I’m a big guy and this itty-bitty baby intimidated me. By the end of day, though, I was holding her and thinking, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’”

That first placement was followed by two other babies, both medically fragile. Then those babies were followed by at least a dozen more. Britanie says it’s not what they signed up for, but it’s been everything they could ask for. Their family motto is “See a need, fill it,” and that’s exactly what all five of the Ramirezes have done over the last two years.

“When we decided to start fostering, we made sure the girls were fully aware of every decision along the way,” said Britanie. “We’re open and honest with them and always make sure they have a choice. They help with the babies and love to play with them and make them laugh. The coolest part for us is that we all love serving and we get to be the hands of Jesus along with our children.”

As a director at Kids TLC, a street outreach program for homeless youth ages 16-24 within the Kansas City metro area, Britanie knows well the challenges young mothers and their children face. It affects the way her family interacts with the biological parents.

“We relate to them on some level,” said Britanie, “because we understand the heartache they face. They love their children deeply, but right now they need some extra support. It’s very important to us to build a relationship with the biological parents so when their child returns home, we can maintain a connection and continue to support the parents as well as the child.”

Plus, it gives them the opportunity to “love on the child longer,” admits Britanie with a smile. They need that extra time, because it can be emotionally wrenching for the whole family when a child in their care returns home.

“The biggest challenge for me is always going to be the attachment, and I get attached easily” said Adrian. “We love hard because they’re part of the Ramirez clan from the day they arrive. We love them like our own, with no boundaries or limits. That makes it difficult when they leave.

“It’s made us stronger as a family, though,” added Britanie. “We’re seeing our girls mature in ways that aren’t common because they see the effects of pain, heartbreak, and redemption on a daily basis. They know where we stand because we’re open and honest with them. I don’t know if we would have experienced any of that if we hadn’t started fostering.

“Recently, I had a conversation with one of my daughters and said, ‘I don’t know if Mommy can do this again after this baby goes home. I don’t know if I can handle it.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Mom, this is what we signed up for; this is how it’s supposed to be. We know this part comes, we know what it’s going to be like, and we’re going to say yes again and again and again.’ I thought, ‘My gosh, she’s so much wiser than me.’”

 

‘Partnering for Health and Hope following trauma’

This year’s focus for National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is “Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma,” a subject dear to our heart. The Saint Francis mission, after all, is to provide healing and hope to children and families – especially those dealing with trauma.

It’s what we do.

Saint Francis serves and advocates for children and families struggling with trauma born of neglect and abuse, poverty, drug and alcohol dependency, domestic violence, refugee status, and human trafficking.

It’s not surprising that such trauma often results in serious mental health issues.

Yet through programs such as Clover House, substance abuse treatment, family preservation, residential treatment, equine therapy, art therapy, and more, we help those most at-risk find the healing and hope they need to lead lives of wholeness.

That’s why today, we join other communities and organizations throughout the country in raising awareness about the importance of children’s mental health. With proper treatment and support, children can display remarkable resilience when dealing with trauma.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “this year’s national observance focuses on the importance of an integrated health approach to supporting children, youth, and young adults with serious emotional disturbance who have experienced trauma.”

That’s why we seek healing for the whole person – body, mind, and spirit.

Find more about National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day here.

Learn how you can help Saint Francis provide healing and hope to children here.

 

 

Foundation president installed as 18th dean of Christ Cathedral

The Very Reverend David Hodges was installed as the 18th dean of Christ Cathedral in Salina, Kansas, during a special service on April 26. The Rt. Rev. Michael Milliken, Bishop of Western Kansas, performed the installation.

Fr. Hodges is also president of The Saint Francis Foundation and Chief Development Officer for Saint Francis Community Services. Prior to his January 1 appointment to dean, he served for 10 months as provost of Christ Cathedral.

Before joining Saint Francis, Fr. Hodges served as vice president for external affairs at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School in Birmingham, Alabama. He also served as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fr. Hodges earned his master of divinity from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, a Master of Science degree in criminal justice from the University of Alabama, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Samford University.