Loudon County Baptist Association has been working through the COVID-19 pandemic to launch a ministry for displaced children.
Immanuel House will offer a safe place for children of all ages who have been removed from homes by the Department of Child Services, as well as parent coaching classes and addiction recovery resources.
The Rev. Phil Holmes, LCBA director of missions, said the idea came from the Isaiah 117 House in Elizabethton.
LCBA had a practically unused house sitting on its property, and Holmes thought it would best be used to help children.
“Basically what happens is the DCS has to remove a child or children from a home and the immediate need when they do that, they have to take them to their cubicle in their office until they can find placement in foster care,” Holmes said. “My wife and I have fostered six children and adopted those six. ... So it made good sense to us because we’ve been in the foster care system as foster parents and adoptive parents. We understand that side of it from a parental standpoint.”
While Immanuel House aims to provide a safe and welcoming temporary location for children, LCBA plans to focus on helping the families.
“DCS and the court system are always seeking reunification with the parents,” Holmes said. “That’s their No. 1 goal, if possible. … We want to be a source of strength and friendship and mentoring to the parents. Most of the children that are pulled from the home, they get into the condition that they’re in because the parents don’t know how to parent properly. Maybe it’s not entirely their fault. Maybe they were raised in the same manner. So we’re not here to pass judgment. We’re actually here to help people find the answer. We want to offer assistance in simple things like budgeting, parenting classes. What can we do to help you figure out how to handle a behavior when you don’t know what to do with that behavior?”
The house will have rooms designed for multiple purposes.
“The upstairs will have a family visitation room,” Teresa Wood, LCBA ministry assistant, said. “So families who have children who are in foster care and they have to have those supervised DCS visits, they can come and have their supervised DCS visits there in the home. That’s where we’re going to have information available on parenting classes, on addiction recovery, money management, things like that.”
Amenities for a variety of situations are also planned.
“It could be up to an hour to 23 hours,” Wood said. “Twenty-three (hours) is the maximum. So some of them it may only be an hour or so before they find placement. … The children will come in. They’ll be able to play, rest, to hang out, to eat. We have built some window office spaces so the DCS workers can still supervise children while they make the calls for placement so that the children aren’t hearing those calls. They may come in the middle of the night, and we’ll have beds for them to go back to sleep. We’re thinking of every aspect. Everything that could possibly happen, we’re trying to anticipate that and to prepare for that. … We are still in the process of renovations and construction. With COVID-19, that’s delayed everything it seems. One of the big things it has delayed is our certified volunteer training.”
Volunteer training certification takes up to a month, so LCBA is looking at late June as the earliest date to open — assuming training can begin in late May.
Holmes painted the interior of the house and volunteers have been helping with other minor renovations and donations. Wood said the house is in its “final push,” but help is still needed.
“We really need monetary support,” she said. “One of the things we have done is we have started an Amazon page that we posted a link to on our Facebook page where we started listing some things on there as we’re coming across the things that we’re going to need so people can, if they want, sitting from home, so they don’t have to go anywhere, they can order things online and have them sent to the Immanuel House. We have a variety of things on there that we need — the baby beds, diapers. Of course, every child that comes will get a new outfit, a new pair of shoes, a backpack with toiletries for them to take to their placement. All of that stuff is by donation. We’ve been getting a lot of things already. We’ve gotten 80-something tubs of all new clothes back there that we’re separating out by size.”