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A spirit that is not afraid

Fostering a way to get involved in foster care

Alabama Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries building at their Auburn location.
Alabama Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries building at their Auburn location.

There is a false yet common misconception that if one is not able to foster a child because of finances, age, or other reasons, there is no way to help children in need.

Both the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home (ABCH) and Opelika’s BigHouse Foundation shared several ways that people can get involved in foster care without actually fostering. 

Each year, 6,000 kids in the state of Alabama go into foster care. This year, ABCH has served over 500 of these children. By 2031, their goal is to increase this number to serving 1,000 of these kids every year.

Michael Smith is the chief operations officer at the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home. In this role, he oversees the foster care program, family care program and college and career care program across all eight ABCH locations in the state of Alabama. 

His mother worked at a nursing home when he was in high school, so he would volunteer there often. From these experiences, he developed a heart for working with people who simply had needs that they could not handle on their own.

Smith claimed that there are several ways for college students to get involved in the foster care system even if they are too young, feel they financially cannot foster or do not feel led to foster. He shared that babysitting the foster kids is one influential way to love families.

“We train people to be babysitters for our foster families. So, for instance, if we have a foster family and maybe they just need a break to go on a date night, we train volunteers to come in and be a babysitter for the foster kids for a few hours or intermittently to provide some support and relief for those foster parents,” Smith said.

Another way that people can aid in helping foster families is to cook and deliver meals. Parents are often busy or getting home from work in the afternoon, and a ready-to-go meal often means a lot to foster parents.

“Even something as simple as baking cookies and taking it is nice for them to know that there are people out there praying for them and just to have that support," Smith said. "Most of our kids come from very traumatic backgrounds, and that can be a difficult journey to walk along, so the more people there are thinking and praying for you, the easier that makes things."

Smith went on to mention another way to get involved within one’s own college campus. For those who really want a practical hands-on approach, organizing a drive on campus for diapers or baby wipes is a great way to get the student body as a whole involved and practically help these parents.

Smith continued to share about ABCH’s Camp of Champions that takes place in June at Shocco Springs. For this event, foster parents get trained while their foster children get to have a camp experience led by volunteers and ABCH staff.

If one wants to get involved in any of these opportunities, the application can be found on

There are also great opportunities for those who do want to foster children. The ABCH prepares foster parents well for the challenges they could potentially face, including matching parents with a social worker and providing them with training. 

Smith shared about their 10-week training called “TIPS” which takes potential volunteers through the details of how to handle certain situations they might face, like the child being taken back to their biological family.

“We want you to love these kids and pour into them and treat them like they’re your own, but you’ve also got to be prepared for the fact that what we want to do is make sure that they’re with the family that God gave them," Smith said. "Our goal is not to replace their family but to reunify their family. Only if that can’t happen do we want to pursue adoption."

Smith talked about some characteristics that make a good foster parent.

“What we’re really looking for is folks that believe that children do best in the families God gave them to…You’ve got to have a passion to restore families,” Smith said.

Though an integral part, Smith shared that there is so much more to the Alabama Baptist Children's Home’s ministry than to just reunify children with their families.

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“One of the biggest things [that can help one foster] is the desire to influence a child for God’s kingdom. If that’s your desire, then we’re the right ministry for you because we want to protect these kids and restore them to their families, but we also want to expose them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Smith said.

Smith gave an example of this from the Bible, one that encompasses how they aim to serve within the ABCH.

“What did Jesus do when He walked the earth in his years of ministry? You always saw Him heal people, pray for people, love on people, and then He pointed them to God the Father," Smith said. "That’s the way I approach this, is that what we’re doing and caring for these kids is a way for us to tell the story of Jesus Christ and God’s love for us."

The Alabama Baptist Children’s Home is not the only organization helping the foster care system in Lee County.

Micah Melnick is the founder and executive director of the BigHouse Foundation in Opelika. She has been there since the organization’s start almost 15 years ago.

Melnick’s parents fostered children in their household growing up. While she knew she did not feel called to be a foster parent, she knew that she wanted to be involved somehow.

“It [starting BigHouse] was from personal experience with my parents becoming a foster family and me just seeing firsthand the need, but then also realizing just because I’m not the parent, doesn’t mean I’m off the hook,” Melnick said.

If college-age students are still not convinced that they are equipped enough to get involved in the foster care system, Melnick shared how she and her husband founded the Big House Foundation in college.

Melnick explained the impact that college-aged students specifically can have on children going through traumatic situations in their home lives.

“We want to engage Auburn students. Not only is it a great resource – you guys have energy and time and you’re fun and you’re cool and all of our kids want to be y’all…but we also feel like you’re at a really integral part of your life where God can really step into what you’re doing and change your path,” Melnick said.

Melnick is passionate about this because this is the age that she was when her path shifted and she began BigHouse. She is encouraged about how involved Generation Z is in wanting to serve the community.

“We want to facilitate students getting involved,” Melnick said.

She gave several service opportunities for those wanting to help foster children through the BigHouse Foundation. These include volunteering at their monthly Kids Night Outs, the annual BigHouse Beach Retreat, different Christmas events, Family Fun Nights and more.

Melnick also shared that there are opportunities to volunteer in other capacities at BigHouse, like working in their on-site boutique.

All of these service opportunities can be easily found and applied for on BigHouse’s website

Melnick shifted to discussing the impact of actually fostering children within the home. She wants people to know that foster parents are not saints; they are just normal people, and it could be anyone.

She, similar to ABCH’s Michael Smith, shared that one of the biggest hindrances in people wanting to foster but not being able to fully make that step was the fear of not being able to give the child back. Though it is not an easy thing, Melnick thinks it is the right thing.

“But that’s what they deserve – is to be loved so deeply that it would be hard to let them go,” Melnick said.

She thinks that this temporary pain is something that potential foster parents can handle in order to relieve the pain that foster children go through every day. 

“Hard things are worth doing in foster care…That child is worth the yes,” Melnick said.

Loving a child enough to give them back to their families or when they are not behaving at home is not easy. However, Melnick explained that there is a reason we should love others, even when it is not convenient.

“That right there is the Gospel – Jesus loves us despite the way we come to him and how we act,” Melnick said.

A big part of the BigHouse Foundation’s mission statement on its website is surrounded around James 1:27 which says, “Religion that God the Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from being polluted by the world."

This is why BigHouse does what they do to help serve children and families involved in the foster care system.

“Our perspective is that we love because He [God] loved us first, and we feel like God’s called each of us to a purpose greater than ourselves to bring glory to Him,” Melnick said.

There are so many ways for anyone to get involved, even college students who may be too young or living on a low budget. The Alabama Baptist Children’s Home and Opelika’s BigHouse Foundation both believe that anyone and everyone can make a difference in the life of a child.

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