Pastor Scott Moore and his wife, at right, Tracy Moore, accept the Good Shepherd Award from Mary Vincent, director of United Methodist Children’s Home Foster Services. (Special Photo)
Eastridge Community Church never went looking for an earthly reward, but the Covington congregation was recently presented the Good Shepherd Award from the United Methodist Children’s Home for its work with foster children. This is the first time the children’s home has given such an award to an entire church.
While the pastor of Eastridge said the church was surprised about the award, it is no surprise that this congregation would be recognized because in just the past year, 22 children were either in foster care with church members or received assistance in other ways by members.
“It’s really not a program,” Eastridge Pastor Scott Moore said, adding that it is simply something he and many others in his church felt God leading them to do.
Added Moore, “I’m not bragging, but I think our people love so well, especially for those who are hurting, down and out and as Christ said, ‘the least of these.’”
Moore explained how more than two years ago, he and his wife, Tracy, decided they wanted to become foster parents. He said they prayed about it and because of their schedule, they went through training with the United Methodist Children’s Home rather than the local Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS).
“People ask us why we did the United Methodist Children’s Home rather than DFCS,” Moore said. “It was just a scheduling thing for us. I love the work DFCS does. They change children’s lives every day and you don’t always hear those stories. I’m a big fan of our local DFCS.”
The Moores went through the required instruction, which is mandated by the state and involves about 21 hours of impact training. The process helps prospective foster parents learn about what causes a child to go into foster care and how it affects their entire life.
Parents are trained on how to welcome the child coming into their home and to understand what is helpful and what is not. They are taught about what to say and what not to say to a child in foster care. Parents also go through a background check and receive first aid and CPR training.
“We were moved by their work,” Moore said of the children’s home.
“Tracy and I got involved with them and started fostering. Some of our members who had it on their hearts asked us about it. We actually had a Foster/Adoption Sunday at the church about a year and a half ago. We had about 80 show an interest.
“You can be involved without actually fostering. Through that class, we are still having families approved. We have about eight approved with the United Methodist Children’s Home and three or four with DFCS.”
The first foster children who came into the Moores’ home were two little brothers. The 9-month-old baby weighed 9 pounds and had been diagnosed with “failure to thrive.”
“With failure to thrive, they quit crying,” Moore said. “They know nobody is coming if they cry. They really have no desire to live.”
His 2-year-old brother did not know how to receive affection, Moore said, adding that by the end of their two-month stay, the toddler was climbing up into their laps. Under the care of the Moores, the 9-pound baby boy doubled his weight.
“You feel like they’re yours forever,” Moore said.
“They went back to their mom, but now they are with another family in north Georgia. The caring for these kids doesn’t end when they leave your home. They’ll always be a part of your home. We have prayed and now this great couple from north Georgia has them and we’re becoming friends with them.”
The Moores have also kept a total of seven children in what is called respite, where they give other foster parents a break. They have kept the different children for short periods of time.
One child who was fostered by the Moores is a boy who was one of a set of triplets born four months prematurely.
“He has a shunt,” Moore said. “He has cerebral palsy and wears glasses. We kept him for 10 days. He looked like a newborn even though he was four months old. We brought him home from the hospital and were scared to death of him because he had so many issues. We didn’t know what he could do.”
Today, that boy is Kage Moore, the adopted son of the Moores and at 2 and a half years old, he is full of energy.
“He wears braces on his legs, but he’s faster than I am,” Moore said. “He would eat, sleep, drink and live outside. He loves cars and loves his brothers… He’s just such a blessing. He’s just an incredible joy. His right side is a little weak, but he’s very strong and very independent.”
Moore said the little boy can walk and understand what they are saying. He is also seeing a speech therapist. Kage was adopted by the Moores last December. Friends of the family adopted one of his other brothers and another couple who are friends of the Moores adopted the third brother.
“All three will grow up getting to know each other,” the pastor said, adding that the Moore family is the only family little Kage has ever known.
Part of that family includes the Moores four biological sons, Jacob, 23; Cameron, 20; Trevor, 17 and Nathan, 9.
“Oh, my goodness, they’re spoilers,” Moore said when asked how the older brothers feel about Kage. “Initially, they’re the ones who started talking to us about adopting. It was years ago when they started bringing it up. Tracy and I prayed about it and knew it was what God wanted us to do.”
Moore said his wife, who homeschools their children, initiates much of the work they do with other foster parents and invites several couples at a time to their home for dinners to talk about becoming foster and/or adoptive parents.
“Anybody who wants to ask us questions — hard questions, we answer them all,” Moore said.
Helping these children has also taken on a new and special meaning for Moore, who said he learned not long ago that when his wife’s mother was a child, she spent some time in foster care.
“It has really impacted Tracy,” Moore said. “She’s so grateful for the people who took care of her mom when her own parents couldn’t and she wants to try to provide the same care for others.”
Moore said that while it is not feasible for everyone in a church to become a foster or adoptive parent, he said every church should be known as taking care of “widows and orphans.”
“I heard some statistics the other day that if one family from every other church would foster or adopt, it would take care of all the needs of our foster care system,” Moore said. “We could provide enough families for every foster child in the state. Really, one church in Newton County could take care of all the children in foster care in Newton County.”
Moore, who has been at Eastridge for 24 years, the last six as lead pastor, said anyone who is interested in learning more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent is encouraged to contact him through the church office at 770-786-2048, or contact his wife at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I just want to encourage everybody to do it,” he said. “What keeps people from doing it is the unknown. Things are never as scary as we think they are. The number one thing people say is, ‘Scott, I couldn’t do that because they would eventually leave.’”
Moore said that while they are sad to see a foster child leave them, they are happy to know they have done what they could to enrich that child’s life and make a difference.
“Children are a reward from God and I don’t care if they’re foster children are what,” Moore said. “…It’s a great joy.”
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Walton County. Contact her at email@example.com.