Eaton Rapids is known as a small town with a very big heart, and a recent project at the Eaton Rapids Congregational Church illustrates that.
Members of the church recently gathered to make fleece blankets for area foster children. They cut and tied 20 soft, warm blankets for the foster children that their Pastor, Jenny Rouble, and her husband, Garth, bring into their home in emergency situations as part of her “Do Everything Needed Together (DENT)” ministry, which supports foster kids and their families.
Those emergency situations are often late at night when other agencies are not open and there is nowhere for a child to go other than maybe sleep on the floor in their caseworker’s office. Rouble brings them into her home and provides a place to stay as needed. Through the efforts of the blanket-makers at the Congregational Church, each child will receive a fleece blanket which they get to keep even after they leave foster care.
“They often have very little with them, as far as possessions, so the blanket serves as a nice comfort item,” Rouble explained.
The Rouble’s home is fully licensed through Family and Children’s Services as an emergency respite location near Jackson, and they can offer short- and long-term housing for children in need. They take children from birth to age 17. The children might stay for two or three days, she said, or months and years.
“We love them while they are with us, and pray for them when they leave,” she explained, when discussing their feelings they experience when a foster child leaves them.
Respite care, for both regular and emergency situations, is available for other foster families who need a break, especially those with a challenging child, Rouble explained.
“The burn out is huge,” she said, “and we want to support other foster families.”
Rouble encourages others to consider becoming foster parents. “It’s a long process,” she explained, “and you must be willing to let all your business be on the table,” she added, as the approval process digs deep into everything about you.
“I would encourage anyone thinking about it to do it,” she said. “There is just not enough space for all the kids that need caring homes.”
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there are approximately 13,000 children in foster care, and 300 children in Michigan who need an adoptive family.
The primary goal of foster care is to reunite a child with his or her parents. In the interim, foster parents need to be patient, and willing to provide safety and stability for a child in their care.
“We try to model a positive marriage for any kids that come into our house,” Rouble said. She and her husband, Garth, have been foster parents for seven years, including having four at one time during the early COVID-19 days.
“He’s just a great man,” she said of her husband. “Never in a million years could I do this without him. We are a team.”
Doing foster care has also made an impact on their own children, Rouble said. “It kind of opened my son’s eyes to the real world and the situation that other kids might be living in.” Her son has become more tolerant, she said, and wants to be a foster parent in the future.
To start the process to become a foster parent, call 1-855-MICHKIDS or visit Michigan.gov/HOPEFORAHOME.