LET'S GO 360

Episode 17 Strengthening Families and At-Risk Kids

June 01, 2022 Larrie Fraley Season 1 Episode 17
LET'S GO 360
Episode 17 Strengthening Families and At-Risk Kids
Show Notes Transcript

Mark Upton is the President and CEO of Christian Family Care in Arizona.  Mark is a leading advocate in Arizona for children and families. Prior to joining Christian Family Care in 2007, Mark served as the Executive Vice President and Provost of Phoenix Seminary. He currently serves on the Governor’s Council on Child Safety and Family Empowerment, the Prevention Workgroup of the Council on Child Safety and Family Empowerment, and the Department of Child Safety Community Advisory Committee. In addition, Mark has served on the Board of Pinnacle Forum AZ, Arizona Life Coalition, Bible Education Legacy Fund of Phoenix Seminary, Arizona Serves Task Force, No Child Waiting Executive Committee, Child Welfare League of America, and the Scottsdale Bible Church Elder Board. Mark is a true family man. With his wife of close to 50 years, he enjoys spending time with their three children and 12 grandchildren, four of which were adopted. 


Website:  https://cfcare.org/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristianFamilyCare/ 

Instagram:   https://www.instagram.com/christianfamilycare_az/ 

Linked in:   https://www.linkedin.com/company/christian-family-care-agency/  

Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/ 

CCV Missions:  www.ccv.church/missions  

Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032 

Email: missions@ccv.church 


Episode 17 Mark Upton-Christian Family Care

Larrie: [00:00:01] Welcome to another episode of Let's Go 360. Let's Go 360 is a podcast for listeners who want to know more about what God is doing around the world here, near and far. This podcast is sponsored by Christ’s Church of the Valley, also known as CCV,  One Church with many locations across the Greater Phoenix area with plans to expand wherever God wants to go. And as always, our show notes will have links to helpful information discussed in each podcast episode, along with a complete transcript of every episode. Check out all episodes on letsgo360.org and be sure to check out CCV at CCV website. Ccv.church. My name is Larrie Fraley. I'm your host and lead pastor of the local and global missions here at CCV. Well, I'm so happy that we have with me a good friend, Mark Upton. Mark is the leading advocate in Arizona for children and families. You know, prior to joining Christian Family Care in 2007, Mark served as the executive vice president and provost of Phoenix Seminary. He currently serves on the Governor's Council on Child Safety and Family Development, the prevention workgroup of the Council on Child Safety and Family Empowerment and the Department of Child Safety Community Advisory Committee. In addition to that, Mark has served on the Board of Pinnacle Forum, Arizona, Arizona Life Coalition Bible Education Legacy Fund of Phoenix Seminary, Arizona Servs Task Force, No Child Waiting Executive Committee and the Scottsdale Bible Elder Board with his wife of close to 50 years. He enjoys spending time with all three children and 12 grandchildren, four of which were adopted. Mark, welcome to the show.


Mark: [00:02:04] Thank you, Larrie. Wonderful to join you.


Larrie: [00:02:06] Hey, before we dive in today, tell us a little bit more about your you and maybe your story.


Mark: [00:02:13] Yeah, well, probably the one thing, well that was some introduction. But being proud of certainly the 12 grandkids and three kids, that's the greatest joy in my life. And and Loraine and I have been married almost 50 years. And so I've been blessed with great family. And that's what really drives me for. The things that I do is wanting to see all families be able to have that love for one another and certainly love with the Lord. And so that's a great joy for me to see that Christian Family Care, this  year we're finishing our 40th year in ministry, so Christian Family Care was started by Kay Eckstrom and God gave me the opportunity to be a part of the leadership here about 15 years ago. And so it's Christian Family Care is all about serving families in our community and we'd love to see every child loved and nurtured in a Christ centered family. And our mission is strengthening families and serving at risk kids in our communities and doing that in the name of Jesus Christ, which is important to us. We believe that it's important for the communities to see that really Christ is the answer that will bring about thriving individuals and certainly brings about a thriving Arizona.


Larrie: [00:03:48] Well, you guys have a lot of different programs going on. I mean, everything from thrift stores to counseling services. Tell us about some of those strategies.


Mark: [00:03:59] Yeah. So as we look at, you know, Larrie, when we're looking at the community and wanting to see how do we make how do we make our communities flourish? All the data that I look at and I know both of us are kind of data people, is that when Christ is at the center of culture and when the family is together, that's when societies flourish. And if we look at the history of the United States, we can see almost 100 year patterns when the family has been whole and stable and when the church has been at its peak. That's when the society is at its best. And so Christian Family Care is looking at how do we come alongside families in our communities to make that happen, to help help societies flourish. And so we began with adoption and in our Foster care. That's how Christian family care started. And we're looking at how do we create that permanency for children. And as we began to do that, we looked at how do we make sure that we're coming along families now to prevent kids from disrupting from homes in a way so that there is not a need for foster care as well as any child that is in foster care, that we're helping them find permanency, either back, re-establishing them with their bio family or in the case when parental rights have been severed, that we're looking to provide some permanency for those children. And children, as you know, as they get older, they even need additional help and care at that time. So we're pretty focused on making sure we're providing the permanency for kids long term.


Larrie: [00:06:02] So if I understand you right, a lot of foster care agencies focus on getting foster parents and and they should. But you are focused on or at least part of the strategy is to make sure they don't go into the system in the first place. Is that correct?


Mark: [00:06:21] Yes. So a big part of what we're involved in is on the prevention side is Safe families is a national program that that works to help stabilize homes. And so this provides temporary care when a family is in need and generally in a crisis situation where we can provide some temporary housing care, relational care to that family, help them get stabilized, and then they're able to move on. And so, unfortunately, if they don't have that kind of support, often those kids will end up into the foster care system. CCV has been involved….one of the hosts from CCV helped out a young woman who had a young son in grade school and needed some care at that time and she just needed some housing was transition for job, wasn’t  steady in her job. And as we began to come alongside this young mom, she has ended up now getting a job and employed. She got some housing and we've been able to come alongside her. Now she just had another infant and needed some care as well there. And we've helped stabilize their home and she now has a permanent job and housing and this kept that family together versus disrupting and into the foster care system. And 99% of the families that we've been able to serve and the children along with that have been able to be reunited, which is a tremendous prevention effort and keeping kids and families to get together versus into our foster care system.


Larrie: [00:08:13] So if our listeners were interested in getting involved in Safe Families or becoming foster care parents themselves, would they contact you or how would they get involved in that?


Mark: [00:08:22] Well, they wouldn't contact me, but because I don't know anything about that. But they certainly would contact Christian Family Care. They could do that at cfcare.org. And we have a team that would really help them look at and evaluate where might be the best place for them to serve, whether they serve as a host family, which is generally a temporary and that might be as much as a weekend to 45 days or more or foster care, which is a which is a longer, longer care process. And our team will help people through that.


Larrie: [00:08:57] So I'm assuming that if someone is interested in just in being a host, which is huge, are the requirements to be a host, a child a lot less than becoming a foster parent?


Mark: [00:09:12] They are a lot less because you don't need to have a license. So so the requirements were less. There are still some of the same kinds of trainings and supports that we make sure that we come along families to be successful along those lines. And I don't want to scare anyone either because but what Christian Family Care does and does well is we make sure that anybody that comes alongside as a host family or a foster family that we help to equip them and provide some mentors and support around them so that this is a scary business and it's a high relational business. And we know that if we want to be effective, it is that relationship that makes  a difference. And so we come alongside to help educate and train and support families through this whole process.


Larrie: [00:10:08] So what makes Christian Family Care different?


Mark: [00:10:12] What makes Christian Family Care different is what we do,  we do in the name of Jesus Christ. We are really focused on engaging Christians in a hands on relational ministry that is transformative in the lives of the people we serve. And we see God bring people to us where families that might serve as a host family or serve as a foster parent make a huge difference in the in the lives of these people that they have the privilege of serving. And often they become willingly become connected with those families and become like spiritual mentors and encouragers And they're seeing real life live ministry happen and change in those children's lives. So when you see a child beginning to flourish because of the work that you've done, there's great heart, gratitude for yourself and for the people that you're engaged in.


Larrie: [00:11:30] Well, besides foster care and host families, are there other ways that our people can get involved?


Mark: [00:11:36] Yeah, we're always we're always looking for mentors to come alongside youth as well as some of the adults. We're beginning… so, we have children that are in the older ages from seven and older. Generally, they're the harder children to place that might be available for adoption. One of our strategies has been to link these youth with mentors, to help them begin to develop a relationship. And hopefully, if we're able to place them in a permanency, that relationship may or may not continue from a mentor, but they've at least helped prepare that child for permanency and adoption. And in some cases, if a child ages out of foster care, which means they've become an adult at the age of 18, those relationships provide some sense of permanency for youth that's now independent. We also have needs for we've just opened a early childhood learning center and we need assistance in just serving kids that are from the community that are working in that could provide some help in their early, early childhood areas. And then part of that is reaching out into the community. So as we work with adults in the community where we're trying to stabilize marriages, we are looking for families that could come alongside as mentors and coaches to help couples, individuals that may not know how to parent. So we had a young man come to us recently who has a young child under the age of five that has no experience in being a father, being a parent, and asked us, could we help them? And so we're looking for people that are willing to come alongside and be involved and engaged in the lives of men and women who want to succeed, want to be good parents in all these areas and want to engage with them, whether that's a host family or a mentor or come alongside as a coach or serving in a school. There's multiple ways to engage relationally with those in our community that will help strengthen and stabilize homes for kids.


Larrie: [00:14:18] And what a great time for the gospel to be shared. A lot of the youth and adults that you serve are coming because of some crisis in their life. And what an opportune time to share the love of Christ and to share the hope of Christ.


Mark: [00:14:39] Absolutely, Larrie. And that that's the big mission that we have. I mean, that's what we're looking for. These families may not they may not enter a church at first. And so we're looking at building those relationships so that those from. And elsewhere that are engaged, have an opportunity to introduce them to Christ and to bring them into a healthy fellowship within the body of Christ. And that's the exciting part as we've seen whole families come to faith in Christ because someone reached out as a foster parent or adopted a child and or built a relationship with a parent, that because of that openness and relationship, that the people were open and willing. They wanted to hear about Jesus Christ.


Larrie: [00:15:39] Now, you also provide pregnancy counseling, correct?


Mark: [00:15:42] We do. So we work with many of the many of the pregnancy centers around the state as far as working in our on our adoption. But there are women who are looking at what is the choice I'm making for this child in my womb. And I'm when I'm making that decision about that child's life, we come alongside with licensed counselors to help encourage, to listen, to support, to help them choose parenting, if that's the best option or right option for them, and providing the helping them seek, supports and engage what they need to be successful in parenting that child. Or if adoption is the alternative that they would choose, then we help engage them in a relationship where they choose and adoptive family that could partner with them in the care of that child.


Larrie: [00:16:48] And so I have three questions as we wrap up here. Number one is, what are some of your biggest challenges?


Mark: [00:17:02] Well Larrie, we were talking about this earlier and a couple other in a discussion that we were having. One of the big challenges is just finding families that are willing to serve. We need foster families. We need host families. We need we need mentors to be engaged. I think both of us can attest to in our lives that it's when we took those steps of faith in our own lives and stepped out of my what had been our comfort zone that we've seen God do probably his greatest work in our own lives. And so we need families in all those areas to engage. And this is this is hard work. I will have to say that it's hard it's hard work because it's a relational it's relational work. And often it's relational work with kids and parents that have gone through a lot of abuse in their lives. And so they operate differently, emotionally, behaviorally than perhaps our own children might.


Larrie: [00:18:23] And so our next question is, is are there any opportunities? What opportunities do you see for the future?


Mark: [00:18:32] Well, Christian Family Care is continuing to look at how do we work in that preventative arena to expand and help families in crisis and begin to strengthen them. So I think there's great opportunity for us to continue to serve families in our communities and for people to be engaged with us as we look at empowering families. And I would welcome anybody to reach out to me even personally on that that would have an interest in how we can be more strategic, particularly in our communities that are at greatest risk, where we see the highest disruptions.   How we advocate for marriage and family. I think that's important for us. As if you're a Christian listening to this podcast, then I would encourage how do we advocate, strengthen the family in the decisions that are happening in our schools as well as in our government leadership and beginning to advocate along those lines. There's ways for us to be involved be involved that way, as well, as well as many of the service opportunities which people could find on our website at See cfcare.org  


Larrie: [00:19:49] Well, we'll be sure to include links to your website and contact information in our show notes. Last question how can we pray for you?


Mark: [00:20:03] Well, thank you, Larrie, for asking that. I would ask that your listeners just pray for our witness in the community. Our desire is to see kids, parents, the family flourish. And to do that, we need to make sure that what we do, we do with the utmost integrity and in alignment with biblical truth. And so you could pray for us as we battle against a culture that is fighting the truth of Christianity. And so that Christian Family Care would be true to that as we try to bring that hope of  the love of Jesus Christ. His grace is acceptance and his heart's desire that not only that all might know him, but that all would live joyfully and fully in the knowledge and accept the knowledge of him. And so you could pray for us in our work.


Larrie: [00:21:26] They're so good. And we certainly will. Mark, as we wrap up here, thank you for joining us today. We look forward to having you back again when we can see what God is doing through you and your team and through Christian Family Care. Thanks for joining us.


Mark: [00:21:43] Thank you, Larrie.


Larrie: [00:21:45] Well, as we wrap up today's show, we want to thank you for listening. You can follow us on your favorite podcast app and leave us a five star review.  If you like what you've heard today and want to hear more that way more people can hear about what God is doing around the world. Also, you can follow us on our website at letsgo360.org. You can also check out CCV at CCV’s website CCV.church    Thanks for joining us as we talk with those living out the great commission inspired by the Great Commandments so that we might stand before the great multitudes, before the throne, when the mission of God is complete. May God bless you as we go and send those here near and far.