Updated: Nov 22
Courtney Conley’s world is all about family—and her heart beats for children. As a public school teacher, she goes into the classroom daily bolstering children who deal with a broad array of challenges.
“I grew up here,” the Franklin, North Carolina native says. “It is home. I fell in love with school in the second grade and becoming an elementary school teacher became my dream.”
She remembers being inspired by her fifth-grade teacher and she has never regretted her decision. “I believe teaching is what I am meant to do.”
Being a teacher made her aware of the lives children live—lives filled with trauma and pain, experiences most people could never imagine. It is from this place that Courtney chose to become a foster parent. She entered fostering with eyes wide open. “Seeing the needs pricked my heart, compelling me to step forward.”
When Courtney decided to pursue fostering, she came to Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH).
Her lifetime involvement at Cullowhee Baptist Church made it an easy decision. Through the EVERY CHILD Foster and Adoption Ministry, BCH trains and equips people to become licensed foster care families. BCH also partners with churches, recruiting families from within congregations and helping churches begin their own foster and adoption ministries.
Courtney called BCH and began to ask questions. “I learned quickly that they were committed to helping me—putting me on the right track.”
BCH works to help people become licensed foster care families. Foster parents are committed to caring for and loving a child, or children, for a brief or extended period of time with the ultimate goal of the child returning to their biological families. Through adoption, BCH can also help find permanent homes for children currently in the foster care system when reunification is not possible. The ultimate goal is to provide permanency for these children through adoption. BCH seeks foster parents who are in it for the right reason.
Fostering takes hard work and has its challenges—despite BCH’s training and 24/7 support. With BCH’s help, Courtney became a licensed foster parent in 2018. The first children she fostered were two sisters, three and four, and she admits she was “terrified—but at the same time excited and hopeful.”
Two months later, their younger sister came to live with them. Three children were almost overwhelming. Courtney’s family pitched in to help and she took it day by day.
“God knows me well,” she chuckles. “He knew what I could handle. I prayed through it. Others prayed for me. Looking back, I can truly say that nothing became too big.”
The confidence Courtney has in BCH was also not misplaced. She knew a BCH case manager was just a phone call or a short drive away.
“From the very first day the girls arrived, I knew I was not alone. They wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to succeed. BCH does everything with God’s mission in mind.”
Eighteen months later, the sisters were reunified with their family. Courtney was content to be what they needed in that season of their lives and help them. “I was determined to give my best, believing and trusting it would be enough.”
In August 2000, sisters Blakely, age four, and Harlow, age three, were to be temporary. Courtney agreed to help another BCH foster family by being a respite care resource for the girls. The Welch family’s adopted son Israel was facing a critical health issue and the demand on Lisa and John were great. (Read the three-part series on the Welch family.) The Welches believed in time the girls would return as their son’s health improved.
But instead of returning, Courtney was asked to become their foster family. Before coming into foster care, the sisters were abused and neglected. The house where they lived had holes in the roof, walls, and floors. In the summer, they were suffocatingly hot and in the winter they were teeth-chattering cold. When it rained, they huddled under a table in the kitchen. There was no hot water and they often went to bed dirty, hungry, and afraid. But the girls were resourceful. They knew which churches handed out meals to the poor and homeless. They often visited church pantry boxes.
As Blakely and Harlow’s foster parent, Courtney immediately plugged them into school resources. She focused on their academics and they started catching up in school. She began to believe God had placed them in her life for a reason. The girls were unable to be reunited with their family. The parents relinquished their custody and a petition was filed to terminate parental rights.
Adoption was now an option and Courtney could not imagine the girls being in any other place than with her.
She decided to adopt the sisters.
“It can take a while—it’s a process,” Courtney remembers. “The girls were happy with me but struggled to understand being separated from their parents. It was a difficult
The adoption came through near the end of May and Adoption Day was May 26.
“I’m intent on giving my girls a sliver of what I experienced as a little girl," Courtney shares. "I had great role models and I want to be a great role model to them.”
Now ages seven and six, the girls are excelling and thriving.
“We live next to my parents in the house where my grandparents lived. I remember playing here when I was little. Now, it is home to me and the girls.”
The girls not only have a loving mom, but fiancé David is the supportive father figure they never had. The church that nurtured Courtney as a child now nurtures Blakely and Harlow. And doting grandparents are only a short walk away where unconditional love is given out in big heapfuls.
Courtney is convinced that fostering was God’s plan for her. For years, she prayed for a child and thought it might never happen. Now she knows that she only had to wait. “I tell the girls, ‘I waited my whole life to become your mom."
NOTE: There are more than 10,000 children in the NC foster care system. Learn how you and your church can be the answer to this incredible need through the EVERY CHILD foster and adopt partnership between Baptist Children's Homes and NC Baptists.
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children