Wayne Stolz has always been around Christians who prioritized family and church. He grew up in a home where the values of faith, work ethic and family were important. He and his wife raised two children with similar values. The Stolz house was the one where all the teenagers wanted to hang out, and some even spent longer amounts of time there when their own families were perhaps not as stable. Sharing these beliefs and wanting to invite others into the safety and love of a Christ-centered family were continually at the forefront of his mind and shaped his words, actions and time.
Over the years, he participated in numerous mission projects, volunteered with his wife through the youth ministry at church and eventually became involved with the missions program at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia. While serving there, he led many domestic and international mission teams. So when Wayne retired in 2001, part of his plan was to devote more time to volunteering. He worked with Habitat for Humanity and served at a group home for troubled teens. Young men, ages 9-18, were sent to live there by the Juvenile Court system when their offence wasn’t severe enough to warrant actual jail time but called for some sort of consequence.
He started out by helping with specific projects on the campus. Over time, however, he started to wonder why these young men ended up there and what could have prevented this experience from being a chapter in their life story. Foster care and families that struggled with brokenness were often part of it. Becoming more and more involved, Wayne served on the board of directors where he worked closely with the staff and learned more about the child welfare system.
It was at that group home where he would meet a man who would eventually become one of his closest friends and with whom he would cofound an organization with an audacious goal: to change the way America does foster care.
Bill R. Hancock was this gentleman who Wayne had met. Bill had worked at the group home as the executive director, and upon leaving that position, he and Wayne met weekly at Cracker Barrel to talk about how the church could radically change the state of foster care in the entire country, one neighborhood at a time.
“These kids aren’t state problems,” Wayne said. “They’re a local, community problem. The state can’t solve it; the local community has to solve this problem.”
Wanting to create a ministry that would enable and equip each local church to recruit, train and sustain parents who took on the challenging role of fostering, they knew that there had to be others involved.
And just like that, the Community of Care™ was created. Drawn on a napkin over breakfast, these men developed a model that could be replicated to equip believers to rise up and care for foster children all over the country. It was a model that would involve volunteers to help drive children to and from appointments, adults who would invest in mentoring young people, babysitters to care for the little ones so parents could have a date night, people who could donate meals, clothing and supplies and even weekend care for foster children, like aunts and uncles in most families.
Changing the way America does foster care officially got its wheels off the ground with a grant from Mt. Bethel UMC that temporarily covered costs to recruit and train foster families. Established as Cornerstone Family Services in 2007, there were about a half-dozen families in that first training class during the fall of 2006, and they placed their first four children from DFCS into loving, Christian homes the following summer.
In 2009, the name of this original organization changed from Cornerstone Family Services to FaithBridge Foster Care, and it has grown to become one of the largest private, child-placement agencies in Georgia. Thousands of lives have been affected by foster care ministries. Over 700 children have been placed with FaithBridge families. And Wayne is still a member of the board with a big vision for this ministry and a big faith in the God who is working through it.
“For every child that we place in a Christian home, we change lives,” Wayne said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
He continues to invest his time and resources into an organization that gives children from hard places the opportunity to be in loving, stable, Christian homes. These homes teach children about the grace and mercy of the God who created them and loves them more than they could ever fathom. Wayne always has and always will challenge and encourage others to get involved to make a difference in the lives of our foster children and families.