When Chuck and Marilyn Mraz attended church one Sunday, little did they know that their life and the lives of 38 children would be forever changed. In 2014 a representative from The United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) spoke at their church, Simpsonwood UMC, about the need for foster parents. Even though they were empty nesters with grown children and grandchildren of their own, the story of children in need spoke to the Mraz’s.
“It was very eye-opening, and we realized that we had the room in our home and our hearts to care for these children. As a Christian couple, we felt it was our duty to answer Gods call to take this step. Through no fault of their own, these children have been displaced from their families and need the love, encouragement, and support to help them through this critical time. When we were introduced to fostering in 2014 there were over 9,000 children in foster care, today there are over 14,000 in care (over a 50% increase), so the need for foster parents has, and is continuing to increase dramatically. ”
Following the words from Mark 9:37, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.”, The Mraz’s began the process of becoming foster parents. With representatives from UMCH guiding and helping them every step of the way, the Mraz Family became approved foster parents in September 2014.
The Mraz’s have cared for 35 children through foster respite care since they opened their home almost four years ago, and have also had three long-term placements during that time.
“We realize that the need is great and though we may only be able to help one child at a time, it makes a difference. We have made so many wonderful friends and have had the opportunity to love so many children that our hearts are full. When we get hugs and kisses from these beautiful children, it makes us realize how fortunate we have been and that we can never take anything for granted. Fostering has also helped us grow in our faith and our marriage, we have had our eyes opened wide to the crisis that is happening in our own neighborhoods and as a couple we need the support of our church family to pray with and for us.
“Being a foster parent can sometimes be trying, but we know that UMCH will help guide us through those times. We know that we will always have the encouragement and support, that is sometimes needed, to make the right decisions and not become overwhelmed. UMCH is supportive in every way possible, from sending diapers to preparing us for court dates to being a shoulder to cry on when our children leave.
“In the 3 1/2 years, we have been fostering we have only had 2 UMCH Foster Care Workers so the continuity for us and for the children, is very beneficial. Our Foster Care Workers are here when children arrive to help with the transition into our home and help to guide us through those first hectic weeks, and we know they are only a phone call away if problems arise. They are Santa at Christmas and the Easter bunny at Easter, they help us schedule our hours for continuing education and provide childcare during those times.
“When a child first comes into your home it can be a whirlwind. Our Foster Care Workers have checked in with us to see how they can help, they helped find daycare, dentist and doctors that take Medicaid and CAPS, they babysat when we had an emergency, they bring diapers and wipes when they make their regular visits and answer the questions (or get the answers) regarding court schedules and are always in court holding our hands. They have helped prepare us when a child leaves as well as when a child arrives.”
The Mraz’s wish others would see the overwhelming need for foster families. “These children are like your own children or grandchildren; they need discipline, they need guidance but most of all they need love. We are always amazed how adaptable our foster children are when they come into our home. We have had many children stay with us in respite care, and we have never had one child that didn’t respond to kindness and love.”
Could your home be a home like the Mraz’s? Could you offer a safe place to land for a child in need?