Protecting Children. Preserving Families. Since 1915.

Through strength-based partnership ACH brings resources and skills to children and families struggling with life's challenges. Together we develop solutions that create safety, hope, love and the capacity to thrive.

You can help give hope

You can help us give abused, neglected and at-risk children the future they deserve by getting involved in the following ways.

We’re ready to help.

Our services are designed to help children, youth and families succeed! From family counseling to specialized services for teens and foster children.

Kids need your help today

Are you ready to make a difference in a child’s life? We are here to help those who have a calling to foster or adopt.

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156058979Foster parents are our heroes, providing care for children who need it the most. They provide love and guidance to children who are unable to live with their biological families. They partner with a child’s community to secure the best life for him or her and help to make positive changes in the lives of children and families daily.

If the decision to become a foster parent has tugged at your heart, but common misconceptions have kept you from taking the first step in the journey, let us help to dispel those myths and provide insight into the reality of fostering.

Our foster care specialists have identified the top-ranked 10 myths of foster care based on their experience working with families.

Myth 1: The only way to get involved is to provide full-time foster care or to adopt.

An incredibly valued way to be involved in fostering is to become a part-time caregiver or respite provider. Full-time foster parents need breaks occasionally for various reasons and may need additional help. Respite providers play an important role in caring for our children and our full-time foster parents!

Respite caregivers go through a similar licensing process as full-time foster parents, and they are also reimbursed at the same rate as foster parents for the days a child is in the home. The maximum number of days a respite provider can care for children at one time is 14.

Myth 2: Foster care is only for young couples.

Fostering is perfect for the empty-nesters or baby boomers who love kids and know they can continue to have a positive impact on children and families in our community. Several of our foster parents are couples who have raised their own children and still long for the joy of having children in their homes.

Myth 3: All children in foster care have suffered intense trauma.

More often than not, children in foster care are there due to neglect. In fact, in Texas last year 69% of confirmed victims were children who had suffered neglectful supervision. The rate for neglect was higher in north Texas at 78%.* While these children may not have suffered physical abuse, studies show that neglect has just as a profound impact on children as abuse.

Our foster parents receive ongoing, specialized training to care for children who have experienced crises and trauma. Each of our foster families are also assigned a full-time foster and adopt specialist to provide continuous support.

Myth 4: I can’t foster if I have a full-time job outside of the home.

You do not have to be a stay-at-home parent to foster. If both parents in the household work full-time, you may be responsible for covering the daycare expense until reimbursement is approved. This is generally 2-4 weeks. It’s beneficial if one or both of the parents in the household have flexibility in their work schedules. Biological parental visits and court dates will not work around the foster parents’ schedules.

Myth 5: As a foster parent, I will receive little to no support. Once I’m licensed, I’ll be on my own.

Absolutely not! ACH provides continued services to our foster parents, including training, respite care, available staff, and family events. ACH foster parents are assigned a foster care and adoption specialist who is on call for support 24 hours a day. ACH’s specialists have lower than average caseloads in order to provide quality support to our foster parents.

There’s no doubt that serving as a foster parent is a difficult role at times, but what parenting role doesn’t have its challenges? Foster parents make an incredible difference every day through strength-based guidance, love and compassion for the children they take into their care. They are truly heroes.

Myth 6: I have no control over choosing the children I foster.

You can’t choose the specific children you foster, but you can specify the age range you prefer and how many children you would like to care for at one time. The greatest need in our region is caregivers for sibling groups (varying ages), youth ages 7 to 16 years, and teen moms.

Foster parents can choose whether or not to accept a placement. However, once a placement is accepted, it’s encouraged to preserve the placement in order to provide stability for the children in care.

Myth 7: Minorities are over-represented in foster care.

The representation of children in foster care is based on a region’s population and child population demographics. In Texas, the top three ethnicity categories of children in foster care consists of 39.2% of the population being Hispanic, 32% Anglo and 22.4% African American.* 

Myth 8: Most children in foster care are teenagers.

Last year, 74.3% of all children in Texas foster care were under the age of 14 years, with the largest percentage (23.5%) being birth to 2 years.* However, many children (approximately 70%) who come in to care are in sibling groups with varying ages.

While it may be a fact that most children in foster care are not teenagers, there is a great need for foster parents who have the skills and are willing to care for children ages 14 to 17 years. It’s vital for this population to have a family and support system to turn to as they reach adulthood.

Myth 9: The biological parents of children in foster care are a danger to me and my family.

The decision for children to have continued contact with their birth family depends on the situation. The best placement options are considered for the child and the court decides whether the parental visits will be supervised.

Most children placed in a foster home will have regular, court-ordered visits with their birth parents that are supervised by Child Protective Services. This is an important part of the reunification process.

For adoptive placements, most children do not have contact with their biological parents after the termination of parental rights and adoption. Children can choose to have contact with their biological parents once they turn 18.

Myth 10: Each foster child has to have a room of his or her own.

Each child is required to have a bed of his or her own, not a room. In some instances, children of the opposite sex may share a room if they are under a certain age (usually six years), specified by the State. There cannot be more than four children in a room and behavioral concerns can also prevent children from sharing a room.

*Statistical data referenced was provided by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services 2015 Data Book.

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151004 0277If you met him, you probably wouldn’t know that Greg Shirley had a rough start to life. He’s a Nashville recording artist, successful business owner, husband and dad to five children. His love for life shows through his beaming smile and how he treats others around him.

He credits ACH for his success. We credit his strength, resilience and determination to change his family’s legacy.

During our 100th Anniversary Alumni Reunion on October 3, we had a chance to sit down with Shirley and learn more about what brought him to our organization and how he has used that experience to his advantage.

Q: What led you to ACH?
A: My father was an alcoholic with a very unstable lifestyle. My parents’ relationship and our life were very turbulent. We were constantly on the move, mostly on the run from the various illegal and troublesome situations my father would get himself into. He was often abusive to our mother as well as us children during the times he was drinking.

We grew up with very little structure, everything from our homes, schools, friendships, were all temporary. This is where my love of music became not only a hobby, but a tool of coping with the sadness and frustration that children in these types of lifestyles are subject to. It was during one of the brief but many incarcerations of my father that my mother fled to Fort Worth, Texas. She later filed for a divorce.

At the time, I was 10 years old and my sisters were eight and six. We often lived in motels in the Fort Worth area. My mom would walk to work as a waitress at the local bars. It was during this time my mother began to abuse alcohol and drugs. She became distant from us and would be gone days at a time. I would take small jobs to get money to get us food. One time we went into a neighbor’s house and were caught taking food from their kitchen. I believe this is when Child Protective Services was called in. They picked us up and took us to ACH.

Q: What was your experience like when you arrived at ACH?
A: While trying to locate our mother, ACH staff gave us much needed attention. We got immediate health care, clothing, food - just the basics. But to us, we were finally in a structured, nurturing environment. We missed our mother, but even at that young age, we knew we were better off at ACH.

Q: Is there a particular memory that stands out?
A: Our house mother bought me a cassette player along with the Grease soundtrack. I was so proud to have something of my very own. She had noticed I loved listening to the radio. I treasured this gift, but most of all, I treasured that someone had taken notice, not of my bad behavior, but of the lost child that was behind it.

Q: What does it mean to you to be back in Texas performing and celebrating with ACH for our 100th Anniversary?
A: I’m so honored to be asked back here to celebrate ACH and all the positive effects it has had over the years, not only on children and their families, but the Fort Worth community as well. I know my time spent at ACH has had a lot to do with my involvement in helping children.

Shirley and his wife of 25 years have fostered children and made several trips to Honduras to help build safe houses for abandoned children. He made it his priority to provide a solid life for his family and lead by example. That meant putting his singing career on hold.

He returned to writing songs and recording five years ago. His new album, Raised on the Run, is about his life as a child. Fittingly, his son, Dallas, came up with the name.

Shirley brought his story full circle when he sang a few of his songs and shared about his childhood during ACH’s Century of Caring event in Sundance Square on October 4, 2015.

You can find Shirley’s music at www.gregshirley.com and on iTunes.

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ClevelandJenkinsCleveland Jenkins, a 25-year employee of ACH Child and Family Services, began his career with the agency as a consultant working with teenage boys and girls. Today, he is the Youth Emergency Shelter (YES) Supervisor.

“I’ve been very fortunate that ACH has been willing to put up with me for 25 years,” Jenkins said. “But I like to consider that I’ve been helping the clients who come through the programs. Some of the kids who I worked with are still in touch.”

Jenkins knows each of the youth who stay at the shelter. He and his team build relationships, teach structure, and show love every day.

“We care about the job we do and the services we provide,” Jenkins said. “And we try to meet our youth and their families’ needs where they are during crisis.”

This winter, a new YES building will be completed on our Wichita Street campus. According to Jenkins, the building maintenance will be easier and the shower situation will improve, but he knows the services we provide to the youth and their families won’t change. That’s what matters to him.

“In our new building, we’ll be meeting the same challenges with our clients,” Jenkins said. “We are there for the community. We provide respite care for families who are in crisis at the moment. What that looks like is shelter for the young people and time away from their families so they can work on their problems.”

Jenkins and his team work hard to make a positive and lasting impact on the youth they work with each day.

“My day quite often is captioned with addressing crisis,” Jenkins said. “But part of being able to do a good job and survive in the business is understanding that you can’t help everybody.”

While Jenkins and his staff know that statement as truth, they don’t stop pushing forward and believing they can make a difference in the lives of each youth who walks through the door. Jenkins said he encourages those who have moved on to come back each year for the Annual Alumni Reunion.

“We want them to participate. Our alumni like to visit and show their loved ones what room they stayed in,” Jenkins said. “And it tells my age when they say, ‘this is my child’ and that child is a teenager.”

Keeping those relationships is one of our key values. And Jenkins has demonstrated that by mentoring and guiding youth at ACH since 1991.

“I believe in ACH because we care about the clientele we serve,” Jenkins said. “We are there to meet the child and family’s needs.”

ACH is continually working to bridge the gap and help families during the most challenging times in their lives. One of those ways is opening a new Youth Emergency Shelter to better serve our youth who need a warm bed, a meal and guidance. Another is to sustain quality staff who care about the children, youth and families they work with on a daily basis. 

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Newly married and fresh out of college, Toby and Erin Owen began working as house parents for ACH Child and Family Services in 1995, then known as All Church Home.

“We were house parents in the Walker building on the Summit Campus for a large group of kids,” Toby said.

For two years the couple nurtured, guided and mentored the teens living in their home.

“The seed to foster was planted in my mind at the end of that time,” Erin said. “We had such an impact on those kids from just loving them and doing all the parenting things we got to do.”

When Toby took on a role as a case manager in 1997, Erin moved on to work at the Child Study Center. Toby spent a total of 14 years on staff with ACH. During that time, the Owens started a family. They had three children and got busy with life. Toby had the opportunity to lead another Fort Worth nonprofit agency and he became the CEO of Presbyterian Night Shelter in 2009.

Over the years, Toby and Erin said their desire to become foster parents didn’t waver. But the doubts and fears still lingered.

“It was a roundabout journey,” Erin said. “There were points along the way when the Lord would remind me and I thought, ‘I can’t do that, I’m not up to it.’ I began praying consistently that the Lord would prepare me for that because he had put such a desire in me. My fear was that foster care would be hard because we would have to let go of the kids who came into our care.”

Admittedly from Toby and Erin, it took a change in their perspectives to move beyond the potential challenges and decide to become foster parents.

“Going back to that fear of letting go of the children in our care, I came to the realization that these children who need a home don’t have a choice in dealing with the suffering or trauma in their lives,” Erin said. “I’m an adult and I can deal with grief if I have to. These kids need nurturing, stability and knowledge that someone is trustworthy and cares about them. Turning it around put it in perspective. It’s an opportunity for a child, not for me or my family.”

Erin made the decision in her heart to become a foster parent in 2011. She knew it was the right decision for her family. Toby wasn’t ready to make the leap yet.

“Toby had a heart for being a foster parent,” Erin said. “Through his work, he knew all the difficult things that could happen. Being ready to move forward was a matter of being in alignment with one another, sharing that same dream and knowing we could do it.”

Two years later in 2013, a shift in Toby’s perspective brought him to that place of readiness with Erin.

“In the spring of 2013 our family went on a mission trip to a third-world country,” Toby said. “I had been praying about fostering for a while, and that trip sealed the deal for me. I knew we had love to give, but it opened my eyes and made me realize that we have everything we need to provide for a child in crisis.”

Taking the plunge, Toby and Erin contacted ACH when they returned from their mission trip and got the ball rolling to become licensed foster parents.

Erin Shook, the Owens’ case manager, has worked with them since 2014. She said a key to the Owens’ success as foster parents was their unwavering commitment after they made the decision to move forward.

“They’re very realistic,” Shook said. “The child currently in their care has significant medical needs and Toby and Erin are committed to giving him the best care possible. They also attend every court hearing, child protective services meeting, and family group conference related to the child in their care.”

The Owen family has embraced what it means to provide a loving home for children in crisis. Even knowing the challenges that exist with becoming a foster parent, Toby and Erin share a message as often as they can.

“Go in with your eyes open,” Toby said. “Take that step and take that leap of faith that things will be ok. You’ll make a tremendous difference. Knowing that you’re helping a child who had virtually no future and was born into an unfortunate situation makes all the hard work worth it.”

Erin agrees. 

“Don’t be afraid of being hurt by losing a child in your care,” she said. “It’s more important for them to have someone who loves them, even if it’s for a short time.”

Their three children were excited to hear the news when Toby and Erin decided it was time to become a foster family.

“My kids were on board the moment we told them,” Toby said. “I think Erin and I were more nervous than they were.”

Their three biological children, Natalie (16), James (13), and Andrew (9), have shown each of the children who spend time in their home a warm welcome and made them feel like part of the family.

“This experience has brought the best out of our kids,” Erin said. “They are so giving, loving and nurturing. That’s been a really surprising blessing.”

The child currently placed in the Owen’s care needs a permanent home. They are in the process of adopting him, and will continue to provide a temporary home for other children in need.

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Wedgwood: Julian

At 16, Julian had experienced more difficulty than most do in their lifetime. Rejection, abandonment, and physical abuse were the norm before Julian left home. But with no place to turn, he slept on a park bench on clear nights and under a car when it rained. Julian lost sight of his dreams and was quickly losing his will to even live. Julian is a handsome young man with a smile that would light up a room, but fear and anger regularly veiled that smile. He struggled the first few months at ACH, getting in trouble at school and having difficulty in dealing with his peers. With the support of his house parents at the ACH Wedgwood program, Julian began to overcome his struggles and rediscovered his enthusiasm for life.

 

Behavioral Care: Peter

Fear, violence, hopelessness, undying love, and eventual successes are the formula for many award winning movies. You will never see it in the theater, but this also describes daily life for many families right here in the Fort Worth area. Tyler and Hannah Haverton’s commitment to create bright futures for children led them to adopt two toddlers from Russia. The adoption of their daughter, Emma, went very smoothly, but the Havertons knew quickly that their second child, Peter, would be different.  “He was angry, agitated and inconsolable at 27 months old and we knew something wasn’t right” reports Hannah. The Havertons had hope that things would improve, but instead things continued to deteriorate. Hannah described one incident where she and her 7 year old daughter had locked themselves in a bedroom out of fear for their safety as Peter bashed the door with a baseball bat. He was six years old. Hannah called ACH for support, and was referred to the Behavioral Care program, for children ages 4-12 who suffer from moderate to severe behavior issues.

 

Emergency Youth Shelter: Jackson

Jackson is 12 years old and has been raised by his elderly father after his mom left them a few years back. She has mental illness and is addicted to drugs, so Jackson rarely sees or hears from her. He starts to act out in school, stealing things and talking back to teachers, just to get attention from others. Jackson gets away with a lot because of his father’s age and medical condition, and his dad cannot afford to pay for a specialized program or counseling. When his father is hospitalized, Jackson arrives at the Emergency Youth Shelter because no one else can take care of him. After the surgery, his dad admits that he can no longer provide the care Jackson needs and is going to give him over to CPS. Jackson doesn’t know what that means. He is terrified and worried about what might happen. However, during his stay in the shelter his counselor has been looking for more permanent options for Jackson and has found him a loving foster family.

 

LIFE Project: Alisa

Alisa came to ACH due to physical and sexual abuse in the home. She and her siblings were placed in a foster home, and Alisa’s siblings were adopted but she was not. Instead, she was placed in Foster Care. As she neared 18, Alisa knew she wasn’t ready to be on her own but she wanted to learn how to be self-sufficient. With help from the ACH LIFE (Learning Independence From Experience) Project, Alisa was able to build a firm foundation before branching out on her own. She found the support system she had always been missing.

 

Foster Care & Adoption: Dakota

Dakota was 7 years old when she realized she could no longer remain with her birth mother. Even though she was young, Dakota understood why- she had never had a permanent home, family or friends. When Dakota came to ACH, she acted out and had to be hospitalized several times because of the severe trauma she had experienced. She didn’t know how to behave because during her 7 years of life Dakota had worked every moment just to survive. From the day she came to live at ACH, Dakota told anyone who would listen that she just wanted to have a safe place to live and a loving family of her own.  Dakota is now living with her new family found through the Foster Care and Adoption program at ACH.

 

Families Together: Dana

Dana will tell you that she always wanted to be a chef. Each single mom or dad who comes into the ACH Families Together program brings a unique story and dreams. Dana’s story is one of resilience, strength and devotion to her family. But, she says, “a bad life decision left me homeless with a young son.” From the time they married, Dana and her husband had difficulties and, after the birth of their son, Xavier, she felt it better to separate. Dana had a car and a job, and she and Xavier were getting by. Then, within months of one another, Dana’s father, mother, and sister all were diagnosed with terminal illnesses and moved in with Dana. As time went on Dana’s dad passed, then her mom, and most recently her sister left this world. As the cascade of misfortune continued, Dana learned that a lien had been placed on her car so it was repossessed. And, without transportation, she lost her job. Dana knew they deserved a better future. With the support of the Families Together staff, she was able to take hold of that dream.

 

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