*James is a 10-year-old boy who was removed from his home and placed with Michelle and Kyle Yeager. As members of First Baptist Church of Woodstock in Cherokee County, the Yeager family is very active with their church’s foster care ministry, We Foster, a partner of FaithBridge Foster Care. **As of September 30, 2015 there were 278 children in foster care in Cherokee County. On average, 23 new children are placed in foster care in that county each month.
**Source: Fostering Court Improvement
Michelle and Kyle Yeager sat in a Sunday service at First Baptist Woodstock as Pastor Johnny Hunt talked about the need for foster parents in their community. Michelle was startled when she learned the number of children in the area that needed care. But things really hit home when the Yeager’s daughter, who was 10-years-old at the time, looked up at Michelle and asked, “Mom, why aren’t we doing something?”
Michelle said, “My husband and I say ‘we raise our kids in church and talk about Jesus and strive to do what Jesus wants us to do’, but fostering took it [obedience] to a new level in our home.” Shortly thereafter, the Yeager’s story of fostering began and Michelle and Kyle started having lengthy conversations about fostering and the implications for their family. “We wanted to be sure we were all on the same page” Michelle shared.
“We wanted to lock in. All of the 15 kids that we’ve had in our home have lived within 10 miles of us. To know that every child has come from our neighborhood…it gives us perspective of what’s happening around us and the difference people can make. Fostering has made a huge impact on our family.”
This impact became even more prevalent when *James entered the Yeager’s care. They were told that he had behavioral issues such as throwing temper tantrums in his previous foster home. Michelle said, “My husband and I believe that when we get a call – we say yes because when the phone rings, we feel that it’s the Lord wanting us to have that child in our home.”
Michelle and Kyle didn’t let James’s perceived behavioral issue deter them from caring for him. Michelle said,
“James was indeed angry, but this is a child that had been in several different schools over a short period of time. When he came to us, he had experienced so much and was being labeled. My husband and I said, ‘God, you’ve got to talk to us and help us work through this.’ We wanted to help James. [If you foster], you’ve got to give the kids a chance.”
As weeks went by, James’s behavior and attitude began to improve. Before he started to erupt into a temper tantrum, he now paused, took a deep breath and centered himself. He demonstrated techniques that Michelle taught him to do when he was feeling frustrated or angry. She focused on teaching him how to better handle his emotions, be respectful, honor himself and honor God in all he does.
James’s biological mom also had two additional children placed with FaithBridge Foster Care. A few weeks after they welcomed James into their home, the Yeager family decided to request getting James’s little brothers placed with them as well. It was a challenge to make it happen, but his siblings were placed with the Yeager family a few months later.
“James was so excited that we got his brothers. Just to see them together again…they were so happy. We were told that the youngest didn’t talk at all and the first day we got him, he was just grunting. As we were eating dinner, he wanted juice. I told him to say, ‘Juice, please.’ To my surprise, he looked at me and said “Juice, please.” I then got a list of the top 20 words children should know at his age. I went through the list and he knew every single word. No one expected anything out of him and all they needed to do was listen to him. I appreciate being able to help these kids not get labeled.”
As with all the Yeager foster children, James and his siblings regularly attended church with Michelle and Kyle. James started showing how God was working in his life and he began talking about how he looked forward to spending time at the church for Parent’s Night Out events. He even mentioned how he loved hanging out with Pastor Craig, the FaithBridge Ministry Team leader at We Foster. There was a change going on with James. It was evident by how he treated people. A child that once had angry outbursts so severe that some foster parents would have requested to remove the child; Michelle said “I know he doesn’t mean it, I know his heart and I’m committed to keep teaching him.” James’s placement in the Yeager’s home impacted him so much, that he also decided to give his life to Christ and become baptized.
When James and his siblings were baptized, the Yeager family, James’s biological mom and stepfather were all in attendance. They were all there to support and encourage the children. Shortly thereafter, Michelle made a comment to James about how proud she was of him for the way he handled a couple of situations that could have been frustrating. She told him,
“You realize the old James would have acted differently.” James responded, “Yes, but that was before I knew God and had Him in my heart.”
The Yeager family not only made an impact on James, but they impacted his biological mother’s life as well. When home visits were granted, the biological mother would often conduct them at the Yeager’s home. She ended up becoming close friends with Michelle who often supported and counseled her. During the months leading up to reunification for James and his mother, the Yeager’s invited her into their home to see how they live with her children. Mom has helped with homework, supervised playtime, eaten dinner with the family and helped prepare the boys for bedtime. The Yeager family has shown James’s mom just how amazing her children are and how to bring out the best in them.
Michelle said, “People often ask how we do it and I tell them that it’s a one day at a time journey. It’s very humbling when you realize that the world is so much bigger than you and I’m grateful that our kids are seeing and learning that. Every child we’ve had in our home…God used them to teach us and grow us.” Michelle concluded,
“If there is anything I can say about our fostering experience, it’s that it’s truly not ‘us’ doing this. It’s ‘Him’ – and I know that we just can’t do this without Jesus.”
* At FaithBridge, we respect the children and families with serve. So while their stories are true, names and images may have been changed to protect their privacy.”