Saint Francis Ministries has begun its annual Christmas for Kids campaign, which provides presents to children in foster care at Christmas. Each year, Saint Francis and its community partners work hard to ensure that no child served by the ministry goes without a gift under the tree on Christmas morning.
“Christmas for Kids is our major event of the year,” said Vickee Spicer, director of marketing. “Saint Francis staff throughout the state work closely with our community donors and supporters to brighten the lives of children. We really get excited about it.”
Saint Francis Ministries sees to it that each child’s basic, seasonal needs are met – such as winter clothing, coats, and shoes. Christmas for Kids, however, helps meet a child’s wants. Working with corporate sponsors and individual donors, Saint Francis provides Christmas gifts for about 3,200 children each year.
Saint Francis employees throughout our service area have started collecting toys, gift cards, and cash donations to purchase presents in preparation for a December distribution. Organizations and businesses interested in sponsoring toy drives are encouraged to contact Saint Francis to learn more about Christmas for Kids and to arrange pick-up of collected toys and gifts.
Dozens of Kansas children received their forever families last week as their adoptions were finalized at National Adoption Day celebrations hosted by Saint Francis Ministries.
Of the nearly 400,000 children in foster care nationwide, more than 115,000 are awaiting adoption. Traditionally scheduled on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day, National Adoption Day helps raise awareness about the need for adoptive parents and honors those who make the decision to welcome a child into their family.
Saint Francis staff hosted adoption events on Friday and Saturday in Great Bend, Salina, Hutchinson, and Wichita. Judges, attorneys, and clerks from the various judicial districts volunteered their time to finalize the adoptions of about 70 children this year.
As in previous years, the Wichita celebration hosted families, relatives, friends, and children at Exploration Place, where Susan Peters, founder of the adoption nonprofit Susan’s Kids, emceed the ceremonies.
“Saint Francis proudly hosts this event annually on National Adoption Day, but the work on behalf of children continues every day of the year,” said The Very Rev. Robert N. Smith, CEO of Saint Francis Ministries. “Today’s ceremonies culminate more than 400 adoptions facilitated by Saint Francis this year. Yet, more than 220 children remain on a waiting list to join a loving, permanent home.
“The need for adoptive families has never been greater. The primary qualifications for prospective parents are an open heart and a loving spirit. We pray these unions will be forever blessed and will inspire more families to open their hearts and homes to other children seeking a life-long family bond.”
What about you? Do you have room in your home – and in your heart – for a child in need of a forever family?
Landon was the only child to walk through the Beltz door with a suitcase in his hand. He arrived at their Wichita home with his little red suitcase, packed and ready to leave again at a moment’s notice. That had, after all, been the pattern up to now.
“He was very shy and reserved,” said Melanie Beltz. “He didn’t say much at first, but he was polite and helpful. I remember that he had a slip of paper with his grandmother’s phone number on it. He kept in his shoe, and that just about broke my heart.”
Foster parents for more than three years, Melanie and her husband Kody have seen much that could break a heart. They initially began foster care with the sole intention of fostering to adopt, but soon discovered that there were lots of kids in need of their immediate help. Besides, they’d just moved into a big house, and they had the room. So, they started taking in children in need of police protective custody (PPC). Some nights, six to eight kids might fill their house, ranging from infants to teens. Their best guess is that they’ve cared for around 300 children so far.
All the while, they waited and hoped for the opportunity to adopt. Like many, Melanie and Kody began wanting to adopt an infant. Then, they began meeting the kids.
“In foster parent training, they told us that after age seven, most kids’ chances of adoption are slim,” said Kody. “That was hard to understand. Even at 18, most of us have more time ahead of us than behind us, and the idea that someone might be too old to belong to a family or be loved just doesn’t make sense. So, we decided we wouldn’t limit ourselves to infants. And then, through PPC fostering, we met some really great kids, so we just kept bumping up the age.”
Still, they waited.
“They told us in training that when you meet your (adoptive) kids, you’ll know it,” said Kody. “They said it was like falling in love with somebody, and I didn’t understand that at the time. I mean, there were kids along the way that we liked a lot and that we felt close to, but for one reason or another, it didn’t work out. But when I met Landon, I knew what they were talking about. I felt like I’d known him forever.”
Landon, 11, had been at the Beltz home for three days when Kody invited him to stay long-term. Landon hesitated, then said he felt he needed to move on.
“I told him that we understood,” said Kody. “I said he deserved a home, and if it wasn’t here that was fine.”
That evening, the family prayed together that Landon would find a place to call home, a place where he could belong. Then they went to bed, fully expecting their Saint Francis worker to pick up Landon the next day and take him elsewhere. But, as Kody prepared to leave for work in the morning, Landon waited outside their bedroom door and asked to speak with Kody.
“Last night,” he said, “you prayed that I would find a place to call home … I think I already have.”
Kody said he’s never dialed a number so fast in his life as he called Saint Francis to tell their worker that Landon was staying put.
Three months later, the Beltzes fell in love with their other child.
“There was a lot in Bella’s file that didn’t sound good at all, a whole laundry list,” said Melanie. “But I picked up this little blond girl who had her face painted up like a cat, and she just looked up at me and said, ‘Hi!’, and it was the sweetest thing ever. I thought, ‘This can’t be the girl they’ve described.’ Anyway, we were only supposed to keep her for three days, and I figured we could handle that. But then, she and Landon got along so well that we asked her to stay. It turned out, she was an easy sell.
“Actually, she was adamant about it. She said she loved her big brother, us, and everything about the house. She’s a very loving girl, always has been.”
“Bella’s story is a good reason why we should never judge a book by its cover,” said Kody. “Just because a piece of paper says something about a child, doesn’t necessarily make it so. Have these kids had experiences that other kids their age haven’t? Yes, absolutely. But they also have a lot to share and a lot of love to give. I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the time and energy to get to know them. You’ll be rewarded for it.”
Today, in Wichita, the entire Beltz family will be rewarded as the adoptions of Landon, now 13, and Bella, 10, are finalized at Saint Francis Ministries’ National Adoption Day celebration at Exploration Place.
It’s a big day for them, and they plan to follow it up with a trip to the trampoline park, something the kids have been looking forward to for a while. Just like they’ve been looking forward to finally finding their forever family. That’s why this day is especially important to Landon and Bella. “It means that I’ll get to be with somebody who loves me and cares about me,” said Bella. “And that cares about Landon, too.”
Lydia Lund prayed for eight years that her husband, Tyler, would share in her desire for them to become foster parents. Thanks to a career in social work, she knew firsthand the effect a good foster parent can have on the life of a child. Although not completely opposed to the idea, Tyler just wasn’t sure if it was a good option for them.
He and Lydia had recently started their own family and already had two little girls, ages five and two. Then one day, following a conversation with friends who are foster parents, something clicked with Tyler. Three weeks later the Salina couple were in a foster parent training course.
“I knew that once he decided, we would go all in,” said Lydia.
Tyler said it was their description of how fostering had enriched their friends’ family and taught empathy and understanding to their children
“My heart started to melt,” he said. “Maybe it’s selfish, but I wanted my kids to join us in ministering to these kids. What better way is there to reach out to others and share love than as a family?”
They started slowly four years ago, providing respite care and taking in emergency placements.
“It was neat to see our daughters get involved and discover what roles they could play,” said Tyler. “Two of our first placements were little boys, ages ten and eight. It was bedtime, but the 10-year-old wanted a cookie and became agitated because we said no, that he needed to go to bed. Suddenly, he bolted for the door – as I tried to remember my training about how to handle a situation like this. He was outside, about to jump off the porch and run, when my 5-year-old daughter said, ‘Remember what Daniel Tiger says. When you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.’ She helped him breathe and count to four, and then he quietly walked back inside the house and sat down. To see her handle herself so well, to not be scared, was pretty amazing.”
Now, the Lunds have three girls, along with an 18-year-old foster daughter and her own 2-year-old girl. They also foster a toddler boy. The older foster daughter came to their home about two years ago, eight months pregnant, and unable to speak English. From Guatemala, she spoke Spanish and an Indian dialect. Fortunately, Lydia speaks fluent Spanish.
“We supported her in giving birth to her child and helped make her as comfortable as possible,” said Lydia. “Because she’s 18, she could age out, but she still has one year of high school left. So, she’ll remain in foster care until she’s finished. She’s doing great in school, and now speaks English very well. Supporting teen moms has subsequently become something we really care about.”
“It’s been an interesting dynamic, having a teenager for our oldest foster child,” added Tyler. “On any given day, there’s potential conflict. After all, we’ve had to learn to communicate in two languages – Spanish and teenager. Plus, there are the cultural differences. It’s required lots of work, but it’s also added so much richness to our family. It’s been rewarding to help her as she learns to become a mom. That’s why family and fostering are connected for us.”
Their emphasis on family is what makes Tyler and Lydia such effective foster parents. For them, fostering is an “all in” endeavor that enlists all the Lunds, including the children in their care. It also includes the birth families of the children they foster.
“Part of our job is to work with parents for reintegration,” said Tyler. “When we realized that we can help more than one generation by helping two people reconnect, that’s when the importance of helping teen moms hit. There’s always going to be a parent involved, so sometimes we’re even working with three generations. That’s three generations in which we can help model hope and reconciliation by helping multiple people heal through just one child.”
Healing, though, nearly always includes pain. Tyler learned that the hard way with one little boy in their care. The Lunds picked him up at the hospital when he was just two days old. Because they also had an infant girl of their own, Tyler shouldered most of the responsibility of caring for him, so Lydia could focus on their daughter. Soon, Tyler realized he’d fallen hopelessly in love. After spending a year with them, the boy became available for adoption, and the Lunds began making plans. A week later, the birth father was released from jail and sought custody of his son. The Lunds felt fearful and frustrated. Yet, they believed the boy’s father deserved a chance.
“He came for all his meetings and supervised visits, and did everything he was supposed to do,” said Tyler. “We also invited him to our home, so he could share meals with his son and put him to bed at night. In the process, we got to know him very well and became friends. So, when the day came, we lost a child we loved, but by returning him to his father. What could have been a day of pain and loss was much better
“I keep thinking of a photo we took on the day he went back to his father. The photographer took the picture with his son and he in the foreground and us way in the background. Their image is in focus, but ours is blurred. If we’d looked at the story as focused on us, we would have experienced great loss, but the focus was rightfully on that child and his father. So, in that moment, we were able to experience joy that they were back together.
Yes, it can be hard to give up a child you’ve cared for and grown to love, but if you go into it in the right mode, it can transform the pain into something good.”
It took an empty nest and a baby girl to show Lynda Cantu her life’s vocation. Four years ago, her mother called and asked her to take in Lynda’s six-month-old niece for a while. The child was about to be placed in foster care, and Lynda was the only family member qualified to keep her. She agreed, little realizing how that decision would affect her family and her life.
“It restored my relationship with my mother, which hadn’t been good,” she said. “But that was just one of the doors God opened for me at the time. I didn’t realize what the experience would do to me as a wife, as a mother, as a woman of God. It changed my life forever.”
One year later, Lynda’s niece had returned home to her birth parents, and her oldest daughter was preparing to graduate from high school. Barely a week after Christmas, Lynda sat in a suddenly silent home. She looked around her home and said to her husband, Bobby, “Our kids are growing up and leaving and they’re making lives of their own. We’ve been blessed with a big place, and you know I don’t function well without a noisy house. What do you think about doing foster care?”
Bobby was leery, but he also knew that when it came to affairs of the heart, Lynda couldn’t help but give 100 percent. He also knew he couldn’t stop her once she set her mind to something. So, he did what any supportive husband would do – he said, “We’ll try it, and see what happens.”
Their first placement was an 11-year-old girl, who was followed by another girl.
“My husband had said, ‘Two’s enough,’ but before long, we had four kids in the house. Then he said, ‘I thought you were going to quit at two. Why do we have four?”
The most children they’ve had at one time is six. Yet, they haven’t taken a baby since their niece. They only accept older placements, girls around eight years old to pre-teen. There’s a reason for that.
As a child, Lynda was sexually abused and molested. As a result, she also found herself in the foster care system. She doesn’t know where she’d be if she hadn’t ended up with the woman who took her in.
“She loved me and accepted me,” said Lynda. “She taught me what it means to be loved. That’s when I knew I wanted to put my stamp on the world. I just didn’t know how – until now.”
Lynda fosters girls who have endured some of the same awful experiences as she. She takes them in because another woman took her in many years ago, and that act changed her life. Lynda believes she can change lives, too.
“Because of what happened to me as a child, I feel I can teach them to realize their worth and value. That’s what my foster mother taught me. Yes, I had a rough childhood, but it doesn’t define who I am. That’s what I tell these girls, that it doesn’t matter where they came from. Their past doesn’t dictate their future.”
Because of Lynda, most of the girls in her care can feel hopeful about their future – especially that 11-year-old girl she and Bobby first fostered. She’s 15 now and still lives with them. The couple adopted Daniela in 2017, and she says she wants to be a foster mom, too, when she grows up. Soon, they’ll add another member to their family when they finalize the adoption of a 15-year-old girl they’ve cared for since August 2017.
“I’ve been blessed with kids and a husband who support me. Bobby always says, ‘You’re called to do this. I’m called to pray for you and the process, but you’re the one called to do this.”
“I just want people to be aware that these kids didn’t ask to be in this situation. They were put here because of decisions made by adults. They’re hurt, they’re scared, and they’re broken – just like I was. I try to remind people, ‘Remember those times when you fell. Who picked you up? Some people don’t have anyone to pick them up.’ So, that’s my calling – to pick up these girls.”
As its mission to deliver healing and hope to children and families has expanded across the country and around the globe, Saint Francis announced yesterday the rebranding of its organization as Saint Francis Ministries, complete with the new URL of www.SaintFrancisMinistries.org.
The new brand includes a new logomark representing a dove in flight, ringed in a circle of inclusiveness and directing people toward Saint Francis. The colors of golden yellow and blue reflect the warmth of hope and healing and a sky of limitless possibilities.
Staff and leadership celebrated the new name yesterday in offices throughout our service area.
“We never considered dropping ‘Saint Francis’ from our name, as the saint’s concern for those in need personifies who we are,” explained The Very Reverend Robert N. Smith, Dean, President and CEO. “Saint Francis Ministries better conveys who we are today, an organization rooted in the Episcopal faith, born of mission and breathed into life through action. We do more than pray, we roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty, doing what needs to be done to transform lives and systems in ways others have thought impossible.
Fr. Bobby and senior leadership unveil the new logo during a celebratory event in Salina, Kansas.
“Many people hear our name and think of us primarily for our foster care and adoption services, but today Saint Francis Ministries is far more than that,” Smith continued. “Every day in one or more of our facilities, we are helping survivors of child sex trafficking, adults with disabilities, refugees and immigrants, people wanting to break addictive behaviors, families trying to stay together, and children touched by trauma. We are expanding globally, encompassing a wider community of partnerships, and venturing to create new services where we see unmet needs. Saint Francis Ministries is only the beginning of greater things to come.”
Dove balloons were released in celebration as Saint Francis Ministries begins a new era of service.
Saint Francis Ministries geographic and programmatic scope includes:
Kansas. As one of two state contractors, Saint Francis Ministries provides foster care, adoption, family preservation and kinship services to more than 3,700 children statewide. Saint Francis operates 23 facilities in 16 Kansas communities. Among its unique programs are a secure care facility for chronic runaways in Sedgwick County; a refugee resettlement effort in Sedgwick County; a state-of-the-art psychiatric residential treatment facility in Saline County; and a therapeutic, restorative program for survivors of child sex trafficking, also in Saline County.
Oklahoma. Saint Francis provides recruitment, training, certification, and supervision of foster homes in 52 Oklahoma counties throughout eastern and central Oklahoma, serving more than 150 children. Saint Francis operates offices in McAlester, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Nebraska. With offices in North Platte and Grand Island, Saint Francis provides foster care services to more than 160 children statewide.
Texas. Saint Francis provides recruitment, training, certification, and supervision of foster homes in 29 Texas counties, including Taylor (Abilene) and Wichita (Wichita Falls), and counties in the north and west central regions of Texas. Currently, 15 children are currently receiving services.
Mississippi. Operating under the name of Saint Francis Bridgeway in Picayune, and Saint Francis Cheshire in Gulfport, the organization offers supervised, shared and supported living, as well as supported employment for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD). Job discovery, placement, coaching and training is a hallmark of these programs.
Central America and China. Since 2015, Saint Francis Ministries has expanded its ministry to include comprehensive programs serving children and families in El Salvador and Honduras as well as strengthening the field of child welfare in China through its participation in the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations Professional Fellows Program.
“As we announce this rebranding effort, we are also celebrating our 73rd anniversary of serving children and families,” Smith said. “We’ve undergone several name changes over the years, but at our core, we have never wavered from our primary mission which is to provide healing and hope to children and families. We have more than 1,300 employees carrying out this mission, and we know their efforts make a difference every single day. Our new name reflects our vision for the future, our hope for those we serve, and our passion to develop new avenues of service that we haven’t even realized yet.”
For more information, visit Saint Francis Ministries here.
Saint Francis has collaborated with International Social Service-USA to produce a Spanish-language version of “Children on the Move”, a detailed guide of best practices to aid those working with migrating children and families throughout the Americas. The free book is now available for distribution to government entities, NGOs, social workers, religious organizations and others working to safeguard migrating children and prevent further trauma due to family separations.
Originally developed by the International Social Service (ISS) General Secretariat in collaboration with ISS network members, the Spanish translation and distribution are made possible, in part, through a partnership with Saint Francis and a special grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
The English version of “Children on the Move” can be found here.
The 120-page guide recommends step-by-step procedures, from assessing the child’s health and wellness needs, to determining quality care arrangements in the host country, to establishing a sustainable solution in the best interest of the child. The manual specifically outlines the intake questions workers should ask, the clinical assessments that need to be made, and offers guidance in minimizing the long-term trauma caused by lengthy separations.
“According to UNICEF, more than 50 million children worldwide are subject to adverse conditions due to voluntary or involuntary migration by their families,” said Julie G. Rosicky, Executive Director of ISS-USA. “At the U.S. border, while most families separated in April 2018 have been reunited or are working toward reunification, the long-term effects will be felt for generations. The ‘Children on the Move’ manual provides a road map to improve our protection systems for migrant and non-migrant children alike. It’s a field-tested, child-focused, case management approach that can improve the outcomes for children and families separated by migration.”
“Saint Francis is a proud partner in this project,” said Angela Smith, Vice President of International Ministries for Saint Francis Ministries. “Making a Spanish translation of this valuable resource available provides broader accessibility to this systematic approach for ensuring services that meet the basic human needs of an unprecedented number of migrants seeking assistance every day; it’s an approach that embraces our mission of providing hope and healing to children and families.”
Saint Francis ha colaborado con International Social Service-USA para producir una versión en español de ” Niñas y Niños en Situación de Migración”, una guía detallada de las mejores prácticas para ayudar a quienes trabajan con niños, niñas y familias migrantes en toda América. El libro gratuito ya está disponible para su distribución a entidades gubernamentales, ONGs, trabajadores sociales, organizaciones religiosas y otras personas que trabajan para proteger a la niñez migrantes y evitar nuevos traumas debido a las separaciones familiares.
Originalmente desarrollada por la Secretaría General del Servicio Social Internacional (ISS) en colaboración con los miembros de la red ISS, la traducción y distribución en español son posibles, en parte, por la asociación con Saint Francis y una subvención especial del Jessie Ball duPontFund.
Las versiones en inglés y español de “Niños y Niñas en situación se Migración” se pueden encontrar aquí.
La guía de 120 páginas recomienda procedimientos paso a paso, desde evaluar las necesidades de salud y bienestar de la niña, niño, hasta determinar los arreglos de cuidado de calidad en el país anfitrión, y establecer una solución sostenible atendiendo al interés superior del niño. El manual describe específicamente las preguntas que los trabajadores deben hacer, las evaluaciones clínicas que necesitan realizarse y ofrece orientación para minimizar el trauma a largo plazo causado por separaciones duraderas.
“Según UNICEF, más de 50 millones de niños y niñas alrededor el mundo están sujetos a condiciones adversas debido a la migraciones voluntarias o involuntarias de parte de sus familias “, expresó Julie G. Rosicky, Directora Ejecutiva de ISS-USA. “En la frontera con Estados Unidos, aunque la mayoría de las familias separadas en abril de 2018 han sido reunificadas o se está trabajando hacia su reunificación, los efectos a largo plazo afectarán a generaciones”. El manual “Niños y Niñas en Situación de Migración” proporcionan una hoja de ruta para mejorar nuestros sistemas de protección tanto para la niñez migrante como para los no migrantes. Es un método de gestión de casos que ha sido probado en el campo y está centrado en el niño. Es un enfoque que puede mejorar los resultados para los niños y las familias separados por migraciones.”
“Saint Francis Ministres está orgulloso de ser un socio en este proyecto”, expresó Angela Smith, Vicepresidenta de Ministerios Internacionales para Saint Francis Ministries. “Hacer disponible una traducción al español de este valioso recurso proporciona una mayor accesibilidad a este enfoque sistemático para asegurar servicios que satisfagan las necesidades humanas básicas de un número sin precedentes de migrantes que buscan asistencia cada día; es un enfoque que abarca la misión de Saint Francis de proveer esperanza y sanación a niños y familias.”
An 18-bed secure care facility for juveniles judged to be chronic runaways has opened in Sedgwick County. It is licensed by the State and operated under the direction of Saint Francis.
Located within the Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Center, the secured area has separate wings for boys and girls, each wing housing nine beds. This is only the third secure care juvenile facility in the state, bringing the total number of secure care beds to 42. The other secure care beds are located Newton and Junction City.
The 5,000-square-foot area includes a communal recreation area, dining hall and classrooms where youth, ages 12 – 18, can continue their schoolwork under the instruction of ORION Education and Training, a USD 259 subcontractor. A staff of 25 Saint Francis employees, including social workers and behavioral technicians, oversee the youth 24-7. A clinical director and registered nurse are also on staff during the day.
“Kansas has an increasing need for beds and therapeutic treatment options for children in foster care, especially those children who have chronic runaway behaviors,” said Trish Bryant, Vice President of Children and Family Services for Saint Francis. “The Sedgwick County Department of Juvenile Programs reached out to us with an offer of available space in their facility. We’re excited to take this program from concept to reality, and we appreciate the County’s tremendous support.”
Juvenile court judges across Kansas adjudicate youth to a secure care facility, often because these youth repeatedly have run away from other child welfare placements. Youth are sent to the facility for an initial 60-day stay, with two 60-day extension options available at the court’s discretion. The youth are required to stay the full length of time ordered by the court.
“The courts have been asking for more beds and more safe settings like this,” Bryant said. “Saint Francis has designed this program around a clinical model of trauma informed care and will include individual, group and family therapies. The whole idea is to give kids a safe environment where they can learn healthy living skills. They will get the behavioral therapy they need so they can recognize and control their own emotions. The goal is to prepare these kids to reintegrate into a family setting or other safe environment.”
“Many of these youth have experienced extensive trauma, and some are survivors of heinous human trafficking,” said the Very Reverend Robert N. Smith, Dean, President and CEO of Saint Francis. “That’s why we’ve structured a nurturing environment where kids don’t have to feel criminalized or further traumatized.
“Traditional youth detention facilities simply aren’t equipped or staffed to offer the kind of therapeutic services these kids need,” Smith continued. “Saint Francis’ model has the potential to vastly improve outcomes for these youth and strengthen juvenile justice programming in general. We are grateful to the Kansas Department of Children and Families and to Sedgwick County for embracing this concept and allowing us to implement it for Kansas’ kids.”
About 220 foster and kinship families from across the state traveled to Hutchinson Saturday to spend a free family day at the Kansas State Fair and to be honored for the work they do on behalf of children.
Inaugurated six years ago, Saint Francis’ annual Resource Parent Appreciation Day gives families a day at the Fair, so they can relax and have fun without worrying about the cost. Saint Francis gives foster and kinship parents a free t-shirt, pays for their family’s admission and provides a free BBQ meal catered by Hog Wild. Saturday, we fed 1,100 people.
Why do we do this? Because being a foster or kinship parent is hard work. Rewarding, but challenging.
That’s why nearly 100 Saint Francis staff volunteer every year to help ensure the event’s success. Our social workers and support staff witness firsthand the sacrifice and love resource parents bring foster parenting.
They see lives changed all the time.
Every day, foster parents shuttle children to doctor appointments, parental visitations, and school events. Every day, foster parents make time to listen, console, nurture, and teach a child. Every day, foster parents provide safe, secure spaces so children can heal, grow, and find hope again.
We want foster and kinship parents to know that their hard work, dedication, and commitment to children don’t go unnoticed. They deserve to be celebrated.
That’s why we do it.
How about you? Want to be a foster parent? Go here to learn more.
They began teaching their children at an early age, with a 50-cent weekly allowance paid in nickels. One nickel always went to the church, the rest to spend as they pleased. As each child grew older, the allowance – and the tithe – increased. Their hope was that their children would carry the spirit of stewardship into adulthood.
Ann Elizabeth Bishop has lived by that spirit for most of her life. She became involved with The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS) while serving as the administrative assistant at St. James Episcopal Church in Wichita. St. James is also where she met Glenna Kleinkauf who, like Ann Elizabeth, was taking a four-year Education for Ministry course offered through Sewanee Theological Seminary. They’ve been together 23 years. They received a blessing of their union in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland 16 years ago and legally married two years ago in Kansas. They also raised five kids, the youngest of whom, Charlotte, grew up attending TENS conferences with Ann Elizabeth and Glenna.
It was through TENS that the couple met John Hoskins, senior philanthropic advisor for Saint Francis Community Services. John, in turn, introduced them to Saint Francis, and Ann Elizabeth and Glenna have been ardent supporters and treasured friends of the ministry ever since.
“We support Saint Francis because of what they do and how they do it,” said Ann Elizabeth. “For us, they exemplify everything scripture teaches about stewardship. Many people think it’s just about giving away money, but it’s more than that. Stewardship is about using your talents and gifts and about being grateful for the good things in your life. I know that for many of these children, Saint Francis is the best thing that’s happened to them. Saint Francis helps them discover and make the most of their talents and gifts. That’s what makes this ministry so unique; it nurtures the whole person.”
That notion lies at the heart of their relationship with Saint Francis.
“They try to make every child feel important, and they treat their donors the same way,” said Ann Elizabeth. “They are conscientious and personal, and they work hard to keep us informed about where our money goes. That’s important because we work hard for our money and don’t like the thought of anyone being careless with it.”
In other words, good stewardship goes both ways. As Ann Elizabeth and Glenna like to say, “Stewardship is everything you do, with everything you have, all the time.”
That motto guides them in their giving, inspiring them to provide support year after year and to remember Saint Francis in their estate planning.
“Who do you want to determine where your possessions go after you’ve left the world?” asked Glenna, “You or the state? We don’t have a lot, but we figure every little bit helps. Besides, we’re all just caretakers of what we own anyway. If we can help an organization like Saint Francis grow and continue its work, then why not?
“We’re not going to be around forever, and one day, these kids will be running the world. We need to teach them now how to love and how to care so they can take their place in the world and help make it better. Hopefully, they’ll remember what Saint Francis did for them.”
Charlotte remembers. As a young girl, she regularly contributed part of her allowance to Saint Francis’ equestrian program at Salina West. Now 29 and preparing to marry, she still gives. She still carries the spirit of stewardship instilled by her parents – and the lives of other children have been made better because of it.
“The bottom line? It’s the kids,” said Glenna. “That’s the piece that does it for me, that’s why we give. We do it for the kids. That’s the beauty of stewardship. You can keep changing the world long after you’re gone.”