Pastor and wife open up home and hearts to four sisters
The moment is here. The car driven by the Department of Social Services (DSS) social worker pulls into the parking space at Mills Home, Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Thomasville campus. Dave and Charlotte Cline wait alongside BCH’s Danetta Christmas to meet not one, two, or even three children, but four sisters. The ages of Kendall, Kassidy, Kayden, and Kailey range from 10 months to seven years old.
Dave smiles as he turns to Christmas. “There’s my girls.”
Weeks of training by Christmas, one of BCH’s staff members who ushers families through the foster parent training and licensing process, culminated in this meeting between the Clines and their first foster care children.
BCH establishes homes for children in the custody of the state’s foster care system by coming alongside families and churches who have a desire for fostering. In the Cline’s case, the family fits in both sets of circumstances since Dave is also pastor at Olive Branch Baptist Church in Roxboro.
“When I was a youth pastor, I saw the impact of unhealthy families on children and how that impacts society,” Dave explains. “Being a teacher, Charlotte saw it, too
“We wanted to get involved.”
A reader of both the Biblical Recorder and Charity & Children, Dave saw the stories announcing BCH had started its Family Foster Care ministry. After sharing the news with Charlotte, they scheduled a visit with Christmas to learn more.
“Before (learning about BCH), we didn’t feel a peace about it,” Charlotte divulges. “The fact that BCH is a Christian organization where people were praying for us and we were praying for them is tremendous.”
Christmas traveled regularly to the Cline’s home to train the couple.
“I can’t imagine anyone having more heart and passion than Danetta,” says Charlotte.
Part of the process is ensuring the family home meets the appropriate foster care standards as well as seeing how many children DSS can place there.
Christmas determined there were enough bedrooms to license the home for three children. As she and the Clines talked, their attention turned to the playroom of Caleb, the couple’s 12-year-old biological son. The room had two doorways, but no actual doors.
“We asked Danetta if installing doors could make it count as another room,” Dave explains. “She said it would, so she licensed us for four children.”
No one knew how important that extra room would be until the Cline’s received a phone call one evening from BCH’s Rae Francis, a case manager at Mills Home who was assisting Christmas.
Francis informed Charlotte that DSS had custody of the four sisters, and the agency’s social worker was looking for a foster home that could accept them all. Charlotte immediately said “yes.”
A member of their church came by the next morning and installed doors on the extra room free of charge. This act of kindness was an initial indication of the support the Clines could expect from their congregation.
“From helping to get the children out of the car on Sunday mornings and to their classes to genuine offers to watch them so we can have a night away, the church has been completely supportive,” Dave says.
After fostering the girls for a year, the rights of their biological parents were terminated. The Clines became the sisters’ “forever family” when the adoption was final on January 10.
“When it was official, our WMU planned an adoption celebration,” Dave says. “They had shirts for us that said ‘mama bear,’ ‘papa bear’ and ‘brother bear.’”
“He loves his sisters,” Charlotte says of “brother bear” Caleb. “Since the girls have been with us, I’ve noticed that his maturity level has grown quite a bit.”
Spiritually, the seeds that have been planted by the Clines are growing. Kailey, their oldest daughter, asked Jesus into her heart while being fostered. Now that the adoption is final, Dave plans to baptize her once COVID-19 gathering restrictions are lifted.
The Clines have made the leap from being a family of three to a seven member household. The journey has not always been easy, but they know fostering was God’s desire for them.
“God wants people to open up their homes and open up their hearts,” Charlotte says. “You don’t need anything special, you just need to have the willingness and desire.”