Heather Davis said she and her husband have always loved children. After marrying, the couple had three children. When their youngest was two years old, Davis said her husband wished they had just one more.
So they added five.
Davis, Residence Life Coordinator (RLC) for Cathcart Hall, and her husband have fostered five children in nearly five years of participating in foster care. Davis said her family has only gone four months in the past five years without a foster child.
“Foster care has been a huge blessing to me,” Davis said. “God loves these children in foster care more than I do, and more than I can even comprehend.”
The family hosted their first foster child, Trey, two days after being accepted as foster parents and adopted him two years later.
“Many people believe when you foster it takes something away from your own children, but I have found quite the opposite with my own kids,” Davis said. “My heart simply expands with each child that comes into my care, and I love even more to see my own children’s hearts expand.”
The second and third foster children stayed temporarily and later found permanent homes. The family currently fosters a set of brothers and plans to adopt them by the end of the year, Davis said.
“I can tell (my children) all day long that Jesus commands us to minister to ‘the least of these,’ but there is no better way to learn a lesson like that than to live it,” Davis said. “It reminds them that we can be missionaries right here in Searcy, Arkansas.”
Dr. Andrew Baker, assistant Bible professor and director of the Mitchell Center, is president of the Searcy Children’s Home board. He and his wife have three biological children and have fostered six children in the past two years.
“There are a lot of kids who need to be loved,” Baker said. “In every little kid who comes into care, we plant a seed.”
Over 4,000 children are in foster care at any given time in Arkansas with an average of 1,200 active foster homes, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
“We didn’t get into foster care to adopt,” Baker said. “We got into it because we knew there were kids who needed love, and in many cases, their parents need it too.”
Baker said being a foster parent has taught him mercy and made him a better father.
“(Foster care is) a place in need of mercy to triumph,” Baker said. “It’s easy to criticize, anybody can criticize, but it’s a whole lot more difficult to create, and to create opportunity, especially in people who have had none … Most people need a hand up, not a hand out. “
Brandon Tittle, assistant dean of students, began fostering children in 2008. Tittle said he and his wife have always been interested in foster care and adoption.
“We feel like God has been pretty specific that we have to do this,” Tittle said. “We don’t feel like we chose to, other than being obedient.”
Tittle said his own biological children have welcomed all of the foster children they have hosted, especially new daughter Eden who was adopted by the family in 2014.
“To us, it is definitely a family mission,” Tittle said. “It’s taught our kids at an early age how to look outside themselves and not be selfish … and that’s been really cool to see how it changes them.”
Tittle said saying goodbye to the foster children is challenging yet rewarding because he knows the children were safe and loved for some time.
“(Fostering has) opened my eyes to such a big need in taking care of kids,” Tittle said. “There’s a whole world right off campus that really needs the church to step up and help and take care of these kids and work with their parents.”