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Tyler and Veronica

CROSSROADS FOSTER PARENTS OF 3 SIBLINGS

Q&A with Tyler and Veronica – “We love these kids, and we’re just having fun every day!”

You are some of the first foster parents to have children placed in your home through Christian City’s new Crossroads Foster Care & Adoption Program. How did you decide to become foster parents in 2018 and how did you choose Crossroads?

Veronica: When we decided it was time to try to have children, we struggled with infertility for a while. We tried fertility treatments and went on that path for a couple of years, and it just wasn’t happening. So, we just started praying. We thought maybe having a family was an “us” goal and not God’s goal. Then we decided…

…we would just let it go and give it to God; we didn’t make another appointment with the fertility doctor.

Around that time, I saw an article in the newspaper about Michaela and the new Christian City Crossroads Foster Care & Adoption Program. I knew about Christian City because some of my cousins lived in group homes. I felt like I knew their house parents because they would talk about them all the time…

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…during the summer when we all would get together. They would have all these stories to tell about things they were getting to do and places they had been. I was 7 or 8 years old, and my cousins seemed to me to have this fabulous life.

How do you get started in the foster parenting process? What’s the first step?

Veronica: After reading the article about Crossroads, we contacted Michaela to let her know we felt like this was something we needed to learn more about.

Tyler: Then we did an informational sit down with Michaela, and decided that night we would start the process.

You didn’t set out to foster a sibling group. How did that come about?

Tyler: It was definitely an instant family. The day we got the call was a Friday afternoon in October. I was at work. Michaela called to tell us about three siblings who needed to be placed in a home. When she told me the ages, I was like “Wow!” We had prepared two rooms with twin beds in case we fostered two children. When she said they were 6 months, a year, and 2 years old, I said, “I’ve got to call Veronica.” I thought, “I’m not signing up for this until she says so!” I called her right away and gave her the rundown.

Veronica: Something had to happen that day. At that moment, I just started praying: “Lord, is this going to happen?” In a couple of hours of that prayer, those three little children were in our home. We were still assembling baby beds from Walmart when they arrived. Tierra and Michaela pulled up first and the DFCS caseworker and the children were right behind them. They did the room inspection, and that was it. We were fully committed, and they were staying the night.

That must have been a memorable weekend! What happened next?

Veronica: We were trying to get a daycare set up so that we could go to work the following Monday. That Saturday, we put everybody in the car and said, “We’re going to go look at daycares.” We alternated days off from work that first week, and my sister came in from out of town to help. By Friday, everything was rolling smoothly and we had a daycare lined up for the following Monday.

Tell us about your three foster children.

Veronica: We have a little girl who’s the youngest; we will celebrate her first birthday next month. The middle child is a boy; he’ll be two next Tuesday. The oldest will be three years old in two months. We celebrate a birthday this Saturday, another one in a month, and one a month after that! We get asked if the boys are twins because they’re close in size. They’re right there together. It’s great!

What does a regular day look like in your home now that you have three children under the age of three?

Veronica: The day doesn’t come without challenges. We both work full time, and the kids are in daycare. They get sick more often because of daycare, but we’re making it work. They’re thriving and growing so much. They’re speaking. Their language has developed so much! When we first got the boys last fall, they called everybody “momma.” They had no language. Every single adult was called momma.

Tyler: Now we’re giving them goals and being proud of them when they achieve it. Every morning, I have them help me get the baby’s stuff ready for daycare: “Who’s going to carry the milk today? Who’s going to bring in the food?” They love those tasks.

Veronica: They love structure because they know what’s coming – like knowing socks go on before shoes. They like to be able to run their day. We wake up in the morning and get changed to fresh diapers, breakfast time, teeth-brushing time, and school time. They crave that structure and love it.

Have you had the resources needed to help you adjust to instantly becoming parents of three young children?

Veronica: Tierra and Michaela with Crossroads will help in any way and they’re always there for us. And we have my dad. We have a family here. People at work have been very supportive, too. Everybody is a phone call away.

Tyler: It takes our village for sure. When we first got the kids, Michaela and Tierra helped with the checklist for what we would need – like juice, sippy cups and all the other things you need for young children. We can’t say enough about how helpful they have been through the process.

Did the Crossroads training prepare you for foster parenting?

Tyler: IMPACT is a 24-hour training program. We’d meet up after work, swing through a drive-thru and go to Christian City from 4:30 until about 7 or 8 pm. It took us a month or so to complete the training.

Veronica: And we would learn. The training was very, very good. Since I am a teacher, I do a lot of training and go to a lot of conferences. But, it was totally different. The activities and things we worked through made us analyze what our life would be like as foster parents. I thought it would be more like basic facts and how to handle children with disabilities. But, it was so much more than that. It was self-reflective and eye-opening.

Tyler: It was about why you’re doing it; the reasons you’re doing this; making sure it’s not just about one reason but a bunch. You’re not only trying to build a family, but also answering a calling from God.

Veronica: It was awesome. We left those nights just going, “Wow, that was so powerful!” Given my experience with training, I didn’t expect us to be so emotionally invested in learning about ourselves through this whole process. It was so good!

Tyler: We also took CPR training and first aid training.
Tell us about the changes you’ve seen in the children over the past 6 months?

Veronica: One reason the children were placed in care was homelessness, along with failure to thrive. The oldest child was developmentally delayed. He could not speak in sentences six months ago. It was one word – if you could understand that word. Now, it’s sentences. He’ll say, “Mommy, look at my yellow car.” It’s so rewarding to see changes every single day. We’re catching up!

Tyler: When they came into our care, the middle child didn’t want to walk, because he preferred to be carried. He was 18 months old, so he should have been walking. He should have been able to stop, bend down and get something. That was one of the milestones at that age, and he was nowhere near that. The younger brother’s language has gotten much, much better, too. Honestly, he’ll say words now that I don’t think his big brother knows yet.

How do you balance the care of three small children along with your full time jobs?

Veronica: Yes, the kids have many needs, and both of us have full-time jobs, and it is about balancing. As a teacher, I’ve always been committed to my job. In fact, I’ve allowed it to define me because it’s my passion. I just pour everything I’ve got into it. I’ve been super devoted and knew it was going to be a change there.
I thought it would be more of a struggle, but I try to get work done at work. It’s a different way of life we’ve moved into, but it just came naturally. Like most working parents, you just kind of figure it out. It comes together.

Tyler: On my way to work, I’ll swing by daycare and drop off the kids. And I pick them up on the way home. Veronica and I get home around the same time to handle dinner, baths, books, and bedtime together.
Since the goal of the case plan is to reunify these siblings with their biological parents, tell us how you’re helping to bring this family back together.

Veronica: We didn’t initially have contact with the biological parents. The kids had a supervised visit scheduled where they would see their parents once a week. As of now, they have unsupervised visits one weekend day. They will go for a full day on Saturday or a full day on Sunday at their parents’ home. We meet the parents, and the kids go with them. Then we meet back up and bring them back to our home.

Tyler: We’ve really tried to team up with the parents so that they don’t miss seeing the kids and spending time with them. And things are different from a few months ago. When we all go to dinner with the parents now, it’s not chaotic like in the past. The kids no longer toss food or paper on the floor. They even offer to put the paper in the trash.

Veronica: We meet up with the parents and talk about how things are going for them, ask if there’s anything we can do, or just try to help them with resources and the things they still need to work through on their case plan. We speak to the kids’ parents on an almost daily basis and give updates on the kids and how they’re doing. I feel like if I just send them those updates and keep them in the loop, they really do appreciate it.

Now that you’ve become foster parents, do you think you made the right choice?

Veronica: We are sure that this is God’s plan. What the future looks like, we don’t know. But, we love these kids, and we’re just having fun every day. We’re so much happier. We feel like we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to do.

Tyler: We’ve adapted to change. Instead of going to do something for us on the weekend, we’ll go to the zoo, or the aquarium, or go camping. It’s been fun. It’s all those things we thought and knew that parenting would be and the things we wanted to get to do and have in our lives, plus some, and with all the greatness of three at one time.

Veronica: We’ve never been overwhelmed. Now, we’ve had plenty to do and a lot on our plates, but we’ve never been overwhelmed. It’s been so great. For us, this has been seamless; everything has gone smoothly.

Tyler: We know we’re blessed because we couldn’t ask for greater people to be in these kids’ lives and in our lives to help us all along the way.

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2nd annual Drive & Dine event raises $262,194 for Christian City Children & Family Programs

Guests from Buckhead and Midtown to Coweta and Fayette filled the Porsche Experience Center on April 27 to raise in support of Christian City Children & Family Programs. Proceeds from the 2nd annual Drive & Dine event will help provide abused and abandoned children a safe home in a loving family environment to heal their wounded spirits and thrive. The non-profit serves the entire metro Atlanta area and beyond from its 500-acre campus in south Fulton County.

Guests had an opportunity to take a thrill ride around the 1.6-mile track with a professional driver at the wheel of a Porsche, followed by an elegant seated dinner in the atrium catered by Restaurant 356. A silent auction and live auction provided additional opportunities for guests to further support the mission of Christian City.

Event co-chairs, Alison and Kenn Bruley, welcomed and thanked guests for joining them in supporting Drive & Dine. Delores Epps, Chair of the Christian City Board of Trustees, welcomed guests to the elegant seated dinner on the dramatic mezzanine level of the Porsche NA corporate headquarters adjacent to Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “Our goal is safety from abuse, neglect and sex trafficking in our city,” said Epps. “Our job is not done until every child feels safe; and we cannot do it without you and your support,” she said.

Cheryl Preheim, evening anchor of WXIA 11Alive News, served as emcee for the second year. As she welcomed guests at dinner, Preheim said, “To have a resource like Christian City is a gift and a change maker.”

The heart of the event program was Preheim’s live interview of house parents, Jeanette and Jim Christensen, and their family. Their 18-year-old son, Edwin, who came to live in their home at Christian City Children’s Village two years ago, joined the couple and their two biological children on stage. Speaking of his house parents, Edwin said, “They show us hope and love, and they make me feel important.” After high school graduation this year, Edwin is planning to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

Sarah Booth, Program Executive of the Residential, Safe Place, and Thrive Programs, is a shining example of the difference Christian City Children’s Village can make in a child’s life. Following Preheim’s interview, Booth spoke about coming to live at the Children’s Village when she was twelve, because her parents were abusive. “In the beginning, I didn’t love it, but that changed. Christian City gave me a foundation,” she said.

After high school, Booth graduated from Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business. Following a few years working in Atlanta, she came back “home” to Christian City to become Director of the Safe Place Program. Since then, she has earned a Master’s degree in professional counseling and was promoted to Program Executive in 2018. “We are excited to see where Edwin will go. He is full of potential,” Booth said. Thinking a couple of weeks ahead, she said, “Mom and I are making plans for Mother’s Day. Christian City made that possible. She was my house mom at the Children’s Village and she’s still my mom.”

Expressing appreciation for the sponsors, volunteers, guests and staff who made the event a success, LaVann Landrum, Chief Development Officer of Christian City, said, “We are thrilled to be able to host our guests for an exciting and elegant event at the PEC. While it is a fun experience, they are also making a positive difference in the lives of children and families.”

About Christian City
Christian City was established 54 years ago when the first cottage for abused and abandoned children opened on Valentine’s Day, 1965. Today, there are more than 1,000 residents, both children and older adults, living at Christian City, a nonprofit organization that depends on the generosity of donors for financial support. The 500-acre campus, located 15 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, includes the Children’s Village Residential Program, Crossroads Foster Care & Adoption Program, Safe Place Runaway & Homeless Youth Program, Thrive Transitional Living Program, active senior living patio homes and apartments, thrift store, assisted living center, skilled nursing center, memory care, home health and hospice care. For more information, visit www.christiancity.org or call 770-703-AMEN.

PHOTO ABOVE (by Chris Rank Photography): Andrew Smola (from left), Ling-Ling Nie, Ellen Taylor and Kevin Barnes, enjoy a terrace-level view of the Porsche Experience Center track during the 2nd annual Drive & Dine event benefitting Christian City Children & Family Programs.

PHOTO ABOVE (by Chris Rank Photography): Buckhead residents and event co-chairs, Kenn and Alison Bruley, are pictured in the auction display area at the 2nd annual Drive & Dine event held at Porsche Experience Center on April 27.

PHOTO ABOVE (by www.dvphotovideo.com): Kirsten Howard takes a thrill ride with a professional driver around the 1.6-mile driver development track at Porsche Experience Center Atlanta during the 2nd annual Drive & Dine event benefiting Christian City Children & Family Programs.

 

PHOTO ABOVE (by www.dvphotovideo.com): Guests of the 2nd annual Drive & Dine were invited to tour the Heritage Gallery at Porsche Experience Center Atlanta during the April 27 event.

PHOTO ABOVE (by Matt Pendry): Novena McGee thanks her professional driver for a thrilling ride around the driver development track at Porsche Experience Center during the 2nd annual Drive & Dine event benefiting Christian City Children & Family Programs.

PHOTO ABOVE (by Matt Pendry): Jason Bare is ready for his ride with a professional driver around the driver development track at Porsche Experience Center Atlanta during the 2nd annual Drive & Dine event benefiting Christian City Children & Family Programs.

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Janet and Ron Teague

This donation is in honor of my wonderful parents as we approach Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Thank you both for setting such a wonderful example for all of us. I love you both so much.

Brian

 

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Caroline Jackson

We love you and miss you.

Penny and Robby Jackson

 

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Terrell Shanley

Terrell has very high values and a strong sense of duty to his community.  He loves children and fights to protect them.  Christian City’s values are his values.   Thank you for being a wonderful father.

Christopher Shanley

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Emma McDonald

 

Anonymous

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Roger Cady

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” Proverbs 10:7

Sarah Abbott

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Barbara Carver

My grandmother strongly believed in taking care of others and loving everyone with her whole heart.  I always think of her when Mother’s Day comes around.  Her memory will live on with me and our family.

Kit Carver

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Macey Giesbrecht

Happy Mother’s Day.  We love you!

Your children Patricia, William, and Josie

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Randy Jones

CHRISTIAN CITY GROUNDSKEEPER SINCE 1989

Randy Jones – “You don’t have to live here to be family. And I’m proof.”

My story with Christian City began in the spring of 1989 – 30 years ago. At the time I was the operating superintendent for a trucking company, and I was cutting grass on the side. I didn’t know anything about Christian City when Knowles Industrial, the company that had the landscaping contract at Christian City, asked me to share the work. I resigned from the trucking company and started my own full-time landscaping business, Jones Industrial. I was in my early thirties at the time.

Looking back now three decades later, I believe sharing the landscaping contract at Christian City was God sent! Sometimes you don’t know what God has planned for you until you get it. At the time, a friend of mine told me not to look back. He told me to give it to God and let Him handle it. I decided to go with it, and I thank God for what He’s done.

About ten years later, Knowles’ business shifted to selling lawn care equipment, and they were planning to give up the Christian City landscaping contract. When I was offered the contract…

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…to handle all the landscaping, I hesitated because I didn’t know if I could handle it. Then I started thinking and said, yeah, I’ll do it. I don’t know how, but I’m going to do it. I believe in asking the Lord about it and saying “Lord, if it’s your will, I’m going to do it.” And I’ve been doing it ever since.

Christian City is a big campus. This is our biggest account, and we take care of everything outdoors. We’re out here every week with a crew of four to six. While the crew is working on campus, I’m here checking on projects and getting ready for the next week. We take care of any tree work, and handle grading and spraying at the community garden, too.

Between work, church and the farm, it’s a busy life, but it’s rewarding. My wife and I have been married 44 years, and we live on our farm in Meriwether County. I have two sons and 6 grandkids. All of us are active in the church. I do a lot at church because I don’t want to say “no” when it’s God’s work. But, I don’t do it to be recognized. God knows about it, and that’s what matters.

An idle mind is the devil’s playpen, so I try to stay busy all the time. One of my best friends tells me that I’m either a hundred miles an hour or zero. He told me I’m either wide open or stopped, and I need to get middle way somehow. A Christian City resident at Hilltop Acres told me “Randy, as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been wide open. It’s a job slowing down, but you’ve got to slow it down a little bit because you’re wide open.” That’s the smartest man I know.

My daddy told me, “listen to the elders. They can teach you something.” After so many years working at Christian City, the senior residents and staff have become like family to me, and I try to listen and learn from them.

When I started at Christian City in 1989, the current Recreation Center was a children’s home. There were five homes clustered in the center of the original Christian City Home for Children campus before the Children’s Village was relocated to another part of the Christian City property.

Altogether, there were eight original homes for the children. The playground was where the walking track is now, and the children knew we would be here cutting grass at 2:00 or 3:00 on Tuesday, but they were never ready to go inside. At least one of the children would always ask to play a little longer. I’d tell my crew, “let’s go across the road to cut over there and let them play a little longer.” If the kids were having fun, we were all for it. I knew the house parents who were here then and some of them now live at Christian City in retirement homes. Still today, anything I can do for the kids or donate to help the kids at Christian City, I’ll do it.

Christian City is family to a lot of people. You don’t have to live here to be family. And I’m proof. I would tell any vendor to “do the best job you can do because Christian City will look out for you.” The great thing about working here is we’re not doing it as a job; it’s a ministry. Everybody has their own ministry here. I would tell any vendor “even though you’re being paid, you’re being blessed, also.” I’ll say it again – you don’t have to live at Christian City to be part of this family.

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