Mark and Susan Ferguson had no idea that volunteering their time at Canadian County’s Youth and Family Services would be a life-changing experience.
The Yukon couple, whose own children are grown, began volunteering about a year ago with the program that offers a variety of services, including foster care, for children from birth until they are 18.
Now, they are foster parents to an 8-month-old toddler. And they couldn’t be happier.
The couple, who are members of LifeChurch-Yukon, began volunteering about a year ago, offering a little time here and there.
But when the call came asking if they would consider fostering a little girl who was born into drug addiction, they had no choice, they said. They had to help.
“It was extremely challenging at first, but it is so worth it,” Susan Ferguson said. “She brings so much energy and so much happiness to the house.”
The bouncing little girl was full of energy Wednesday as the Fergusons, along with a dozen other volunteers, joined LifeChurch’s Logan Prince to present the organization with a $20,000 grant.
Mark Ferguson said there was never any question about whether they should help. One of his daughters works for the Department of Human Services in its child protective services division.
“We wanted to give her so much, and she has given us so much. It is such a rewarding experience,” he said.
The couple have fostered her for several months now, and are very much a part of her life. However, the biological parents are still in the picture, trying to get clean so they can be reunited.
Ferguson said it is his hope that the mother can regain custody. However, the family is ready to adopt if they should have that opportunity.
“Our whole family has been blessed by her,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tuttle couple Jeremy and Melissa Collinson are among the families who began as foster parents and later adopted the children.
They adopted brothers, who at the time were 1 and 2 years old.
The young couple didn’t have any children of their own, so adding two children to the mix was a difficult decision.
“It was a decision we had to pray over. We prayed about this process of going into fostering. You fall in love with these kids,” he said. “Not because of their needs and situation, but because they cling to you for hope and love.
“It was a no-brainer to take them in. They are our family. They are our boys,” Collinson said.
The couple fostered the two brothers for about a year before the adoption was final.
The biological mother does occasionally make contact because she was “sometimes” involved during the fostering period.
But Collinson said the mom also believes the children are in a better situation than she could provide.
“She is very thankful for the boys and how their lives have turned out. She wasn’t able to provide the proper support,” he said.
This is the second year that LifeChurch, which provides about 60 volunteers each month to Youth and Family Services, has made a $20,000 donation.
This year’s event wasn’t a secret, but the amount of the donation was.
Prince said the church’s members volunteer to do a little bit of everything, including playing a key role in the foster care program .
Schneider said Youth and Family Services, which is a private 501(c)3 organization, provides an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children.
Schneider said it is volunteers like those from LifeChurch who make the program a success.
Schneider told a story about a child who went through the program because his mom was too young and not ready for parenthood. He eventually was adopted by his foster parents.
They gave him a new name.
“I got to see a child who smiled from ear-to-ear because he didn’t know how hopeless his situation was. Braden got a new name .… You give them hope. You give them a chance. Whatever they were set up for life is erased. You set them on a new path,” Schneider said.
Schneider also announced that Youth and Family Services had celebrated earlier in the day its 66th and 67th adoptions.
“This is what you do every day. What I want you hear me say is ‘Thank you.’ God is using you to do amazing things,” Schneider said.