Whether in her car, behind a desk, on a stage or even in her free time, Melissa Poole is focused on faces she does not yet know, but can somehow clearly see everywhere she goes – the faces of children in foster care and ones who be placed in the child welfare system in days to come.
As the executive director of foster care Melissa is always searching for loving Christian couples – from Pensacola to Sarasota to Miami – who are ready to help transform the lives of One More Child by becoming foster parents.
Melissa is not only passionate, she is an expert in the field of child welfare, with more than 20 years’ experience working with children, youth and families in crisis and with specialized certification in trauma-informed care, as well as Infant mental health. When she’s not enjoying family time with her husband, Ray, and their two children and three grandchildren, she is finding creative ways to meet the needs of the hundreds of children who enter Florida’s child welfare system each month.
We hope you enjoy this inside look at foster care at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and how Melissa’s passion for Christ-centered families comes from a very personal experience.
Q: What drew you to working in foster care?
Melissa Poole: My mother was abused as a child, and I witnessed both the long-term emotional effects that abuse has on a child as well as the miraculous healing and restoration that a relationship with Jesus Christ can provide.
I have no doubt that Christ is the reason that my mother did not repeat the cycle of abuse with my siblings and me. As such, Christ was (and remains) the difference in my mom’s life, my life, my daughter’s life and will be the hope of generations to come in our family. Serving in foster care, especially through a ministry, allows me to give other hurting children the opportunity to find the same hope, joy and healing that my mother found through the love of Christ.
Q: What is the first thing you tell someone whenever they indicate they are interested in potentially becoming foster parents?
MP: There’s no better or more fulfilling way to make an eternal investment in the life of a hurting child. There’s nothing that is more challenging to do but, at the same time, there’s also nothing that is more rewarding to do.
Q: What are some things many people don’t know or understand about foster care?
MP: Many people are not aware that they will receive special training as part of the home study process in order to better equip them to understand and care for the needs of foster children. Many people also do not know that they will receive a small monthly stipend to help offset the financial expense of caring for foster children.
Q: What is a story from your work at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes that shows how God is working to draw children and families to Him through foster care?
MP: Two of our licensing specialists were residents in our group homes when they were teens. Through the love and support that they received while in our care they both accepted Christ and were encouraged and motivated to earn college degrees. They have now returned to work with us in order to help us recruit more families to join us in this critical ministry to hurting children.
Q: Why is Florida Baptist Children’s Homes a proven leader in Christian foster care?
MP: We recruit quality Christian families to care for the children and seek to engage the church community to provide wraparound services and support to our homes. Our foster care staff are highly credentialed/experienced and are called and committed to our ministry and to the welfare of children. Our staff pray for and with our families and are always available to provide support to ensure that the foster parents and the children are linked with needed services.
Q: If someone isn’t quite ready to dive into foster care. how can they support those in their community or church who are foster parents?
MP: Individuals can volunteer to help foster parents and children in a number of ways:
- Praying for our families/children
- Providing meals/clothes/supplies when new placements are received
- Assisting with babysitting, setting up and/or coordinating wraparound support groups within the church (to provide prayer/support/donations/etc. to foster parents)
- Arranging events at their church (and other churches) to support and encourage foster parents (e.g. “foster parents night out” with free babysitting, helping set up an orientation/training class at their church, etc.)
- Tutoring and/or mentoring foster children,
- Leading donation drives in their church/community
- Making a financial gift to support our foster parents/ministry
- Becoming respite foster parents, which are foster parents who are licensed to care for the foster children for a few days at a time in order to give foster parents a break but who do not have permanent placements)
The ways truly are limitless and are so very impactful in helping to support our foster parents to care for the children we serve.