The Cooks’ house looks different today as does the family that lives in it. The home of Roger and Shanell, along with seventeen-year-old son Jackson, used to contain both a living room and a separate sitting room. Not long ago, Roger and his son took hammer and nail to the sitting room transforming it into another bedroom –– big enough for two children if the need arises.
For sixteen years of Jackson’s life, there were three members of the Cook household. Now, there have been as many as eight. Their household, and their lives, completely changed in 2018 when the Cooks became a licensed foster family through Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH).
Jackson recently shared his one regret about his family’s new dynamic: “I wish we’d done this sooner.”
“I always tear up when I think about him saying that,” says Shanell.
Roger and Shanell wanted to have more children after Jackson was born, but were unable. After Roger successfully battled esophageal cancer in 2017, the Cooks began evaluating what they saw as an opportunity for their family.
“Roger’s battle was a long journey, but God is good,” Shanell proclaims. “We always wanted four children, and we saw this as God giving us a second chance.
“We felt the need to foster with the intent to adopt.”
Shanell learned of BCH’s family foster care program as she was chatting with BCH staff members who bank where she is employed. She and Roger agreed that they wanted to learn more about fostering through BCH and what it would look like for their family. Danetta Christmas, director of Foster Care at BCH’s Mills Home in Thomasville, was at their house the following evening.
Danetta’s role is to train and license families as well as supervise case management staff members who provide ongoing support to those families. Danetta’s team works with families and churches located in counties within the Mills Home service area. BCH has family foster care offices and staff throughout North Carolina.
The Cooks began their training in September 2017 and were licensed in early 2018.
“The calls immediately started coming in,” Shanell says regarding children in need of fostering.
The couple included Jackson in the decision-making process as they prayed and discussed the children who could potentially come into their home.
“This wasn’t just about myself and Roger, but about Jackson,” Shanell explains. “It needed to be the right fit for everyone.”
That “right fit” turned out to be a timid seven-year- old girl named Makayla.
“We first met her the week of Valentine’s Day and fell in love with her immediately,” Shanell beams. “Within ten days, she was living with us.”
Makayla had suffered a traumatic family history that left a number of emotional scars which the Cooks recognized immediately.
“She was so shy. She had no self-esteem and no confidence. It took a while to build it up,” Roger says.
As the weeks and months passed, Makayla began to see that the Cooks genuinely cared about her.
“She completely blossomed,” Roger continues. “She is very bright, energetic and talkative. She’s the little sparkplug to our family.”
A little more than a year after they began fostering her, the adoption became official. Makayla became a permanent member of the Cook family on April 26, 2019. The larger family the Cooks always dreamt of was now reality. How- ever, as they fostered Makayla and continued working with BCH, the couple began seeing foster care through another filter.
“Through Danetta’s training and God working through her, we have seen it’s not all about adoption anymore,” Shanell reveals.
“Fostering is about doing God’s work,” Roger adds. “This may be the only chance a child gets to see a Christian family. No matter how long we have that child, it’s an opportunity.”
That opportunity has presented itself to the Cooks multiple times. In a year and a half, they have fostered seven children ranging from seven months to nine years old.
Makayla and the other children attend church and children’s activities which included Vacation Bible School this past summer. It was at VBS that the Cooks’ newly-adopted daughter and two boys they foster accepted Christ as Savior.
“It was the greatest belated birthday gift!” exclaims Shanell, who celebrated a birthday that same week.
The family continues to look expectantly towards God, trusting Him to continue filling the extra room they have built. They are completely committed to fostering through Baptist Children’s Homes.
“Baptist Children’s Homes is a Godly, Christian organization, and I encourage people to foster through them,” shares Shanell. “They offer more resources, more help and more hope than anywhere else you’re going to go.”
“We built the extra room and God’s filled it,” Roger says. “It’s God’s timing and God’s plan. We just have to be willing to answer the call when He makes it.”
Family Foster Care in a flash!
What is family foster care? By becoming a trained and licensed foster care family through Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH), you provide family living care for a child over a planned period when his/her family or legal custodian cannot provide care.
Who are the children? Foster children can be any child in NC, ranging in age from infancy to 18 years old, who enters the foster care system. Each child has a unique background and specific experiences and needs. Many come from situations of abuse and neglect and do not possess a healthy self-esteem. Foster children need a family atmosphere, a place where they can belong, and they need to be loved.
Can we adopt the children? Possibly. The goal of foster care is reunification with the biological parents, however, if it is determined that reunification is not possible, adoption can become an option for permanency. Through our work with the child welfare system and in partnership with Christian Adoption Services (A licensed adoption agency in NC) adoption services can be provided seamlessly.
How can my church begin a foster care ministry? BCH’s foster care staff will partner with your church to provide trainings to equip and license couples who feel called to become foster parents. We also help churches learn how they can provide support and community for these couples and the children who come into their families. The church’s role is vital.
We’re here to answer questions.
Go online to bchfostercare.org or call 800-476-3669.
Article written by Blake Ragsdale, Managing Editor