Volume 1, Issue 5
Inside This Issue: Advocacy and Action at Harvest of Hope
Spotlight on Harvest of Hope Board President, Earl Roach and family; Saint Rest Baptist Church Launches Foster Care Ministry
November is National Adoption month, a month set aside to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care.

The history of National Adoption Month dates back to 1976 when Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis announced the first Adoption Week. Governor Dukakis's idea grew in popularity and quickly spread nationwide. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week, and in 1995, under President Bill Clinton, the week was expanded to the entire month of November.

Every November, activities are hosted that promote the adoption of children and youth from foster care into permanent, loving families. Learn more at National Adoption Month 2018 In Their Own Words: Lifting Up Youth Voices . Be sure to follow our Facebook page all month for great adoption facts, stories, and videos. You're sure to be inspired!
National Adoption Month Spotlight: Living and Leaving A Legacy of Service
Earl and Joyce Roach
In 1996, when then New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman made a special plea to the Pastor and congregation of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, to temporarily house 56 infants of color who had been abandoned in hospitals across the state, Earl and Joyce Roach answered the call. They agreed to temporarily house one of the infants until the state could reunify the child with his/her birth parents or arrange kinship care with relatives. 

Following six to seven months of training for certification, during which they experienced frustrations and sometimes felt as if the system was designed to discourage participation, they received the call to pickup a beautiful baby girl from a group home. For the next few months, Earl and Joyce worked diligently with the state to help reunify the baby with her parents or qualified relatives. After two years, once those attempts proved unsuccessful, Earl and Joyce joyfully adopted the infant girl who had come to be what they called “their baby”. 

But Earl and Joyce did not stop there. Earl and Joyce continued to open their home to children in the foster care system, fostering over 30 children over the next 18 years!  Earl and Joyce had developed a passion for helping vulnerable children, wanting to be “a shining light for each foster child...letting them know that they were safe, they were loved, and they were full-fledged members of the Roach family”.

Earl and Joyce continued to work within the First Baptist Church foster care ministry to share their experiences and provide support and encouragement to foster families in training.

In December 2000, Earl willingly accepted the charge to help establish Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc. (HOH) as a not-for-profit organization, serving as one of the original thirteen-member Board of Directors.
Throughout the years, Earl has shared his time, professional talents, knowledge and experience to help HOH scale from a small Central Jersey organization into a well-respected statewide foster and adoption agency with major outcomes, including 455 families recruited, 1,440 children placed into those homes, 60 children successfully reunited with biological parents or family members, and an annual retention rate for HOH foster family homes of 85%. 

In 2016, as the Board President, Earl led the Board to adopt a new mission for HOH as a national voice and consultant designed to teach communities to recruit and retain loving foster families for local children, particularly children of color. In addition, his leadership ensured that HOH issued $10,000 in educational assistance to children in foster care who had been placed by HOH.

Earl and Joyce Roach have personally impacted the lives of more than 30 children and have touched many more through two decades of ongoing support to HOH. It is with a great sense of pride that we honor their family for leaving such an impactful legacy, and for being a shining example for people with a heart for children in foster care. 
“Not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interest of the others
-Philippians 2:4
Saint Rest Baptist Church Launches Foster Care and Adoption Effort
In September, Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc. (HOH) proudly announced a “missional” partnership with Saint Rest Baptist Church of Fresno, CA and their Pastor, Rev. D.J. Criner. The mission is to find forever homes for 15 children currently in foster care in Fresno County in an area of great need – the placement of older, minority children who have experienced multiple placements. HOH has trained Pastor Criner’s church leaders to recruit potential adoptive families and support currently licensed foster families. 
“It is our responsibility to care for these innocent children, who through no fault of their own, had parents who could not care for them, or in some cases, neglected or abused them. They deserve loving families and the opportunity to flourish and become all that God intended for them,” stated Pastor Criner, who along with his wife Jessica, adopted their daughter 9 years ago.
Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., CEO of Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc., remarked, “We are a caring nation. We proved that most recently when, in spite of deep divisions around politics and policy, most of the country rallied around children separated from their parents at the border. Those children deserved better - as do the half million children in foster care across the nation. Harvest of Hope is honored to partner with the great people of Fresno and Saint Rest to accomplish this mission, and together, our efforts will make a big difference.”
Further, “Saint Rest Baptist Church, well established in the West Fresno area for 73 years... is perfectly poised to become one of the leading faith-based foster family recruitment organizations in the Fresno area.”

Saint Rest Baptist Church celebrated the Launch of its Foster Care Ministry with a 3-day weekend event! On Friday, September 21st, HOH hosted a reception at the Central Valley Community Foundation to celebrate the official start of the faith-based initiative. Guests included the Mayor, the City Council President, the Superintendent of Schools, the Chief of Police, the Attorney General, and several members of the local clergy. The Director of the Department of Social Services (DSS) kicked off the night by highlighting the importance of collaboration between government and the faith-based community in finding loving homes for children. Pastor Criner's 9-year old daughter testified to what adoption has meant in her life, and for her family. All attendees were invited to attend Orientation the following day and begin the process for approval to become a licensed resource parent. 
Pastor David J. Criner, Jr., Project Manager and Anderson Fires, Director of Recruitment and Retention, welcome attendees to the Launch Reception on Friday, September 21, 2018 at the Central Valley Community Foundation
Members of Saint Rest Baptist Church responding to Pastor Criner's request for adoptive families during the worship service on Sunday, September 23, 2018.
On Saturday, September 22nd, more than 50 individuals showed up for Orientation at the Central Valley Community Foundation. First Lady Jessica Criner led an activity to posture people's hearts toward children. The Deputy Director of Child Welfare Services facilitated a Resource Family Approval Program Information Orientation which included an overview of the child welfare system, resource family types, expectations, and specific information about the approval process. DSS staff members were on-hand to distribute applications and process fingerprints to move forward in the approval process.

Finally, all roads led to Saint Rest Baptist Church on the morning of Sunday, September 23rd where the 3-day event culminated in delivery of a passionate sermon on God's vantage point of adoption by Pastor Criner. Several adoptive families from Saint Rest were provided the opportunity to share their testimonies in hopes of inspiring others toward the sentiment of James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: To look after orphans..."

If you live in Fresno or the surrounding area and are interested in adopting a child between the ages of 7 and 12, please contact Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc. at  fresno@harvestofhopefamily.com , or Saint Rest Baptist Church at 559-237-5551.

About Pastor David J. Criner, Jr.
Now in his sixth year as Pastor of Saint.Rest Baptist Church in Fresno, Rev. D. J. Criner; teacher, lecturer and social justice advocate has long worked for the betterment of underserved populations through his work in educational institutions, public and private institutions and the faith community.
Harvest of Hope Hosts Focus Group at
Arizona State University in Phoenix, AZ
On Saturday, September 15th, a group of 14 foster and adoptive parents gathered at Arizona State University's (ASU) Downtown Phoenix Campus to discuss the importance of family home placements for older youth.

From April 2017 to June 2018, Harvest of Hope actively engaged in the recruitment and training of local Phoenix churches to help find and support current and prospective foster families through the development of individual foster care ministries. The initiative resulted in more than 40 churches committing to recruit and support loving families and homes for the 2,000 teens that were residing in congregate care or group home settings in Phoenix, AZ.

With an understanding that "experience is the best teacher," Harvest of Hope sought out resource parents who had a breadth of knowledge and experience pertaining to child welfare-involved youth ages 13 and up. Our goal was to generate dialogue centered around the experience of having young adults in the home, and to dispel commonly-held myths that typically preclude families from opening their homes to this vulnerable population.

Harvest of Hope partnered with ASU's Vice Dean of the Watts College of Public Service & Community Solutions, Cynthia A. Lietz, Ph.D to facilitate the group. Dr. Lietz was accompanied by Harvest of Hope's Arizona Agency Liaison, Berisha Black, who co-facilitated the group from her vantage point as a former foster youth, current foster parent, and child welfare advocate.

Dr. Lietz and Ms. Black led the diverse group on a journey to discuss 1) what led them to become licensed resource parents; 2) how they decided on the appropriate age range for their family; 3) concerns they may have experienced when deciding to accept older youth into the home; 4) the supports they deemed most valuable while caring for older youth; 5) and positive experiences that older youth brought to their families. The participants also shared sage advice on how to be successful with older youth in the home - information that prospective resource families simply do not receive in pre-service training. One parent offered the following sentiments to describe the value of families' short-term efforts on teens' long-term results:

"You don't get to see the harvest all the time. Sometimes you're in the trenches... We're just planting seeds sometimes, we're planting love... But that harvest is plentiful. We're not there to till the seed, or water the ground, but we're planting as many seeds as we can." -Tarisha C.

Dr. Lietz concluded the session by expressing her sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the participants for their fearless service with teens in foster care. The complete Focus Group footage will be made available for viewing at www.harvestofhopefamily.com .
"As a foster mom, you may not get the fruit of prayers answered and hopes realized. You may not get proms, graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. Let’s be real. You may not even get the fruit of bedtime routines achieved, table manners acquired, multiplication tables learned, or secrets whispered...Today, I have today. And I will faithfully train and parent and love this child today and for as many more “todays” as I get." 
-Anonymous Foster Parent
Get Connected, Stay Connected
Harvest of Hope needs your support! If you have been inspired by our work, or if you'd like to be involved in creating solutions for children in foster care, please consider making a donation. Your gift can help fund our foster family recruitment efforts, orientation and workshop training, or perhaps assist with the purchase of a coat, school supplies, backpack, or more. You can help in any number of ways. No amount is too small. To learn more, click the link below.
Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Incorporated 

Corporate Headquarters 
727 Franklin Boulevard, Suite 1
Somerset, NJ 08873