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Houseparents find satisfaction in anything-but-glamorous work

PLEASANT PLAIN, OHIO — Twenty years ago, Faye Fuqua felt God nudging her toward the Mid-Western Children’s Home near Cincinnati.
Her husband, Denny, had just left his preaching job in Mississippi, and the couple prayed for a ministry where they could work and serve others.
Only not this ministry, Fuqua said.
“I fought with God, and I fought him hard,” she said. “I wasn’t so sure about raising my kids with children who’d come from troubled homes. I had no idea how to fill out all the paperwork or work with the courts. Ohio seemed like a world away from where we were. I had just all sorts of excuses.”
She’s not alone: Serving as a houseparent at one of the dozens of group homes associated with Churches of Christ nationwide is a demanding, anything-but-glamorous ministry.
If anything, finding Christians willing to serve as houseparents has become even more difficult in the two decades since Fuqua grudgingly took the job, child-care agency directors say.
“Society has become more complex, so Christian families themselves are having a harder time keeping afloat in this difficult world,” said Harold Shank, national spokesman for the Christian Child and Family Services Association, which includes 57 child-care agencies associated with Churches of Christ. “It takes dedication to do this, and I think people are counting the costs and not sure they want to step up to that line. Those who do find a blessing from God.”
In a recent survey, agency directors reported that they lacked houseparents in 20 out of 140 group homes — or 14 percent, Shank said. As always, the issue was a focus at the association’s recent national meeting in Texas, hosted by the Sunny Glen Children’s Home in San Benito.
“You want good Christian families to do this,” Shank said. “Yet, when you’re an agency director and you’re turning away child after child after child, that’s pretty sad.”
At Mid-Western Children’s Home, Fuqua pauses to smile at a tall, blond girl sorting socks in a place that looks more like a used clothing store than the average laundry room. Another girl asks her housemother to help with a letter she’s writing. A third grins shyly at a visitor.
Since 1987, Fuqua has helped raise 131 children in this home — 128 girls and three boys. What originally was a two-year commitment has become a lifetime mission. It’s not easy work, she acknowledges, nor is it always fun. But the Fuquas find inspiration in showing troubled children that God and caring Christians can see them through any heartbreak.
In the process, the girls who sleep two-to-a-room in this sunny, split-level home teach her about unconditional love, service and Christian joy.
“I have learned something from every child who has been here with us,” she said. “Every single one.”
That also applies to the Fuquas’ own daughter, Candy. She and her husband, Scott Huston, work as relief houseparents at Mid-Western, and Scott is a caseworker. The couple and their four children live on campus, two rounded turns away from the Fuqua home. “It makes me proud,” Faye Fuqua said. “God obviously knew what was best for us all.”
Mid-Western typically houses 20 to 30 children at a time on campus. It could serve more if Chris Jones, the agency’s administrator, could find more willing Christian houseparents.
“We are short two families right now, and that’s been a chronic problem in recent times,” Jones told The Christian Chronicle during a recent tour.
About 300 miles northwest of Cincinnati, at Shults-Lewis Child and Family Services in Valparaiso, Ind., Gerald Frump and his wife, Phyllis, have worked as houseparents for 21 years. “Grandpa Gerald” said he has lost count of the number of boys and girls they have served.
“This is not an exciting work, when you think about it, because these kids are struggling with so many things,” said Frump, who is also director of development for Shults-Lewis.
But Frump said he finds satisfaction in bringing hope to struggling children.
When a child has a bad day at school, or receives bad news from home, Frump is apt to make them laugh by grabbing the hose on the kitchen faucet and spraying his wife across the room, he said.
“I see them coming. I see their broken hearts. And I see the issues and the baggage,” Frump said. “What’s so neat is that the kids who used to curse God are now singing his praises, and they’re my brothers and sisters in Christ. That is amazing to me.”
Dec. 1, 2006

Filed under: National Staff Reports

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