Join co-hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber for part two of this two-part series with Jami Kaeb from the Forgotten Initiative. In this episode, you’ll learn more about Jami’s organization and hear how it began with the continuation of her story. You won’t want to miss the inspiring and heart-warming story from this mom of seven children.
To learn more about the Forgotten Initiative, visit https://www.theforgotteninitiative.org/.
If you missed part one, you can listen and subscribe here!
Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we are here to support and encourage you along the way. Now, your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Tera Melber: Lynette, on our last podcast, we interviewed Jami Kaeb, who is the director of the Forgotten Initiative, and she began to tell us the story about how this entity started and what all they do with their advocacy across the country. The Lord started with foster care awareness and their family, prompted curiosity which led to prayer and action. And I’m excited to hear the continuation of this story about how the Forgotten Initiative began.
Lynette Ezell: Me too Tera, it’s such a joy to have Jami back with us. And we pray that you as a part of the body of Christ as the hands and feet of Jesus will be prompted to engage your community foster children. I believe Jami will offer you the beginning first steps you will need to move forward. So we hope you’re encouraged today as we continue our conversation with Jami Kaeb.
Jami Kaeb: Foster care is about caring for a child or time, loving another family. Being a safe place for a time. We fell in love with that vision and we said we got to have a heart for siblings. And we’re at this point we were open. What do you want to do Lord? We’re here we’re ready, you’ve changed our perspectives so many times, what do you need? Today after classes ended, we had already had our license because of growing through the process a little bit different way, thinking we’re going to adopt first. But two days after those classes ended we got a call back about two little boys who were brothers, who needed a foster home. They were seven months old and three years old and we said yes to them. We were so excited to start that journey.
Jami Kaeb: I remember when we were waiting for them to pull in, we had actually been in Florida when we got the call. We came home, ran to the store, got all the stuff and waited for them to pull in. I was so nervous. We had no clue, what we we’re about to embark in. [crosstalk 00:02:33]. What they were like, I mean we knew very minimal information but when that case worker pulled in at the same time our bus first dropped off our seven year old from school. I saw her running in “Are they here?” We were all ready to open our home to kids. I went out and I remember seeing the little seven month old Bobby who in his car seat and little three year old David who was so small and so scared. Picking him up and saying “We are so glad you’re here.”
Jami Kaeb: Bringing them into our home, that began our foster care journey. Those puzzle pieces like I talked before about the ministry, were coming together. Ultimately in April, 2011 form together in a picture that the Forgotten Initiative. The Forgotten Initiative is all about started in my community. I wanted to connect Gods people to the foster care community. Tangible rays, whatever rays they can get really. We started a Facebook page and I start sharing about it on my blog. When a need would arise I’d talk to workers, need would arise I would share that with people. Someone would say “I got it.” I would connect them to that need and we were off and running. I was sharing about this on the blog and someone from another state, reached out to me and said “I love what you’re doing, I want to do that in my community, can you help me?” “I’m like well sure, you know, I don’t really know what I’m doing yet but let’s do it together.”
Jami Kaeb: That kind of started and completed a snowball. Now we have over thirty communities, advocates we call them. They’re local leaders in our community who are getting to know agency workers. They’re learning the needs [inaudible 00:04:24] They’re connecting about a Christ, equipping the church to meet those needs. They’re continuing that relationship so that Gods people can serve.
Lynette Ezell: That’s awesome. How do you train the advocates to start something new in their communities?
Jami Kaeb: Yes, there is an entire, I’ll just say this to a little before that. There’s entire process now to become an advocate. As we’ve grown, our leaderships, our national team has grown to support and equip these advocates. Because what we realize is, I can’t just do work in my community necessarily and be very effective at helping other people do it. I’m not the local leader in our community. More I’m focused on the national side of things. What we did to train our advocates is, we’re literally having lots of conversations with them. We’re sending them material, we’re helping them understand, it is about humbly coming in. [crosstalk 00:05:24] Just exactly what you guys said, the last thing we want to do is make promises we can’t keep. Over promise and under deliver. I’ll tell you, I’m pretty good at doing that.
Jami Kaeb: You know, that learned from experience. If that doesn’t work and that doesn’t make for good examples. We’re training them, we’re bringing them. We have quarterly halls together, where we round tables. Where we’ll bring a group of maybe five advocates together. They’ll be kind of sort of a topic like building relationships with churches or serving agencies in this way. Or maybe it’s over a certain program that we’re going to all be with them. Those are very important for advocates to learn and grow together. One of the things we feel like we can do the best, is connecting our advocates to each other, because they’re teaching each other. Everyone’s in a different community. There’s different things that’s happening in different communities. And so, every need is a little bit different and yet there’s a lot of similarities and definitely the core is the same. Every month, we’re sending out a video to our advocates just a short five minute of updates that are happening that also envision casting just to kind of keep first things first.
Jami Kaeb: Our favorite thing we do… also we have full-time staff dedicated to just coaching and equipping our advocates meeting with them when they need it. But also throughout the year and scheduled times as well. But one of our favorite things is we have an annual retreat, where we bring our advocates together they get there on their own but we paired everything else. And it is the best time because we get to meet each other and be together in person. We spend two or three nights, three days excuse me two nights together. We train them on different topics, leadership [inaudible 00:07:10] all kind of stuff. We also just connect, laugh and hang out and challenge each other and love on each other, I mean just it’s our absolute favorite thing. That’s a huge piece of what we do, it’s really the communicating with each other well. Keep those lines open and connecting with each other well.
Tera Melber: So see this is just unbelievable because it began with what we’re trying to reiterate to people to do. Go to your local Department of Children and Family Services and say, hi can I can you? And this is how the Lord uses that first step of obedience, you know. We can’t all do everything, we can all do something, right? And look, what the Lord wants to do, when we just take one step toward helping a child in foster care. And supporting our local government workers because they have, it’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever seen. It really is.
Jami Kaeb: That is a huge focus for us, it is. We look at it very holistically. These kids are so very important because they are very vulnerable. You know this is been done to them but these workers not only because when you support them they’re better able to help the kids. But they just need our love and our support as well.
Tera Melber: They absolutely do, yep.
Jami Kaeb: So do the foster parents and the biological parents. Like we’re about this whole community of people because maybe you’re not called to bring in a child. Maybe you’re called to be encouragement to a worker. Or maybe you’re called to be a mentoring family to a vulnerable family. I mean there are so so so many ways that doesn’t even scratch the surface of how you can serve and support this community.
Tera Melber: Its so true, so true. Well I know through your foster care experience and through your role at the Forgotten Initiative that you’ve added another title to your name which is author, yes. And girl I have all those books and I share them with everybody. They’re fantastic so can you tell us about the Who Love series because I love them so much.
Jami Kaeb: Yes, well thank you for that. Actually when you said another title, I’m like what? What is that?
Tera Melber: Grocery Store Gal.
Jami Kaeb: Yeah, so the Who Love series came about after a retreat. Usually we get our best ideas right after our retreat I feel like ’cause we’re on our way home, we’re all pumped up. We’re talking to each other about what’s next and so we realize at least from our perspective, we weren’t seeing a lot of resources for kids in foster care. There’s resources for kids that’ve been adopted, there’s you know kids, for resources for kids who had some trauma and stuff. But we didn’t actually see resources specifically which were kids in foster care. And so we just decided, you know, what’s the main thing we want our kids to know is that their large. And what are their circumstances telling them. Well their circumstances might be telling them that their not worth anything. They’re walking around bringing [inaudible 00:10:07] with a garbage bag or they’ve been abused or they’re neglected or they’re having to move homes because of their behaviors, you know. Their circumstances aren’t relaying that message but man the Lord loves them and we love them and they have value and they matter.
Jami Kaeb: And so what we did is took you know kind of broke it down to three age levels. So the first age level is Who Loves Baby. And it’s for zero to three year olds and it’s a board book which is so fun.
Tera Melber: I love that book, it’s so cute.
Jami Kaeb: I know, I love it too. Its very basic Who Loves Baby and all it does is walk through the the cast of characters in a child who’s been in foster care’s life. So mama loves baby, daddy loves baby, foster care loves baby, siblings, grandparents, church family, judge, social workers, all that kind of things. So my favorite part is at the end when they, they get open to the last page that is everybody. [crosstalk 00:11:08] And the pictures are amazing, it’s actually my sister is the illustrator.
Lynette Ezell: Aww that’s awesome!
Tera Melber: She’s good!
Jami Kaeb: She’s so good, I know. But, yeah so that’s Who Loves Baby and then Who Loves Me is for ages three to seven. And that really takes them to the next level, kind of developmentally to, kind of goes really to that same idea Who Loves Me… mommy loves me, daddy loves me. But then it adds a little additional like, they love you so much but right now, they… I actually can’t remember exactly what the words are but they need help taking care of you. And then the next one so that was really geared to a child with an adult reading. So the child can [inaudible 00:11:51] who loves me or mommy loves me, daddy loves me and the adult can say “Yeah, they do, they love you so much but right now they need help.” So that’s for that. And then the final book is probably my favorite..I Am Loved. It’s for kids seven to ten year old. And it’s more, it’s written more on a chapter book, like a little chapter junior book.
Jami Kaeb: And instead of walking through that exact same model because these are older kids, it’s a story of a little guy who was in foster care [inaudible 00:12:22]. They never knew what a foster kid was until I became one. And it [inaudible 00:12:27] the day the police came to his door. And what happen and how he navigated this journey with the different people so you still see the same cast of kids first. But it just guides a lot deeper into it and a lot of emotion and feelings that he has we bring up. This book does not end with a bow, you know because foster care doesn’t always and a lot of these kids are going to read it, are in the waiting phase. So he ends with not knowing what’s [inaudible 00:12:55] into him. But he does know that there are a lot of people who care about him. And so in this book also there’s a section for kids to write their own journey or draw their own journey, which we love.
Jami Kaeb: And the thing that I probably am most excited about with these books it at least in the creation of them, was the fact we wrote them. I used my kids, a lot of their experiences throughout the book as well. But we also talked to therapists, we talked to foster parents and we talked to social workers. And we said is this accurate, is this authentic, you know, is this what you’re seeing? Because, so that’s why I feel like I can be even more excited because this was a team effort my awesome team at TFI, also with a lot of people who are in this community who are able to speak to and made it so much better than it would have been. So it’s been an awesome thing and to get pictures and get a lot of stories from people who are reading the book, took pictures of their kids reading it, is such a gift to us.
Tera Melber: Well I highly recommend them, I think they’re great. I’ve sent them and passed them along to lots of foster families. You have a specific website for that thought right? Is it TheWhoLoveseries.org?
Jami Kaeb: Yeah, it’s just WhoLoveseries.org [crosstalk 00:14:10]
Tera Melber: Okay, we’ll add that in the show notes but they could get to that from your website is well which we will also share.
Jami Kaeb: Well the great thing on that website to is it has some discussion questions and some extra resources for parents as they read these with their kids. Because these books may bring up and probably will bring up some feelings, some big feelings like we talk about in the books. Because it’s going to get to the cores of some of these things these kids are feeling. So we have to navigate that too.
Lynette Ezell: And I’m sure that, that’s you know that can be a baby step process. I was thinking of a little girl I met Sunday at church and we were able to take her a duffle bag, she had nothing coming into care. So you know, she just kept her head down, she’s just a beautiful little girl. Kept her head down but she’s seven, you know seven – eight and I’m thinking this book is going to bring up a lot of emotions. So you really do need that adult someone that you can trust to go through that with you.
Jami Kaeb: What a great connection with foster mom and dad.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, for foster mom and dad to be able to have this tool. Because we haven’t lived that. The kids are the ones carrying all those feelings.
Jami Kaeb: Yeah absolutely and it’s a lot to carry. I think one of the things that has most impacted me maybe in our classes that we taught to these foster parents was the idea that kids have, you know their developmental or their physically a certain age. So maybe this little girls seven but maybe because she hasn’t the building blocks of a healthy, nurturing family, maybe developmentally she’s more like five. And but experientially maybe she’s experience more than many adults who ever experienced so she’s more like an adult. It’s certain things she’s experience so how in the world is she suppose to process life and process feelings? And that is why we see behaviors and you know that kind of thing that [inaudible 00:16:07] we can determine like well that’s bad behavior or that’s negative. But the reality is they’re just trying to figure out everything that’s going on inside of them.
Lynette Ezell: They really are and I have to move on to one of our favorite things you do with the podcast.
Tera Melber: We love it, we do. We really do.
Lynette Ezell: We don’t miss a episode and so the Forgotten podcast, I love the intro its just a comfort to us. And it encourages us Tera and I both and we share it with all of our adoptive and foster families that the Lord brings into our lives. But could you just take a minute and tell us about the podcast. Maybe, I have my favorite episodes but a just maybe one of your favorites episodes.
Jami Kaeb: Okay, this podcast also came about after retreat. [crosstalk 00:16:54] They are awesome I’m telling you. One of our advocates actually said “You tell us to dream big and there’s my big dream. I want you to start a podcast and I want to help you do it.”
Lynette Ezell: Oh that’s great.
Jami Kaeb: It was awesome and it was pulled because we had kind of gotten a bit strained in our hearts too. But it was like how in the world it wasn’t ever the right time until then. And so she helped us start it and what we do… I love love love the podcasts because I get to interview just like you guys. [crosstalk 00:17:21] It’s the best seat in the house isn’t it?
Lynette Ezell: It is.
Jami Kaeb: To interview people who some of them you know, some of them you need to know. That’s how I like to think of it. The stories that people share and it’s all related to foster care. So it’s foster parents, it’s workers, it’s people who’ve grown up in foster care. It’s you know , it’s just basically anyone [inaudible 00:17:46] people who are connected to the foster care community or who can bring help to those who love to are.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely
Jami Kaeb: So we just, our whole passion is to help people become aware so that they have more understanding and empathy for the foster kids community. But then for those who are in the foster community we just want to be a source of encouragement. You can do this, you are not alone. And then we also want to help those who are like they want to do more. You know, maybe they can’t [inaudible 00:18:16] to be a foster parent because they have too many foster kids in their home. But they have to do more. They’ve been exposed. And so how can we help them become a advocate. Not just through TFI but an advocate in their community with the tools, leadership, you know, thoughts and guidelines can we help them. So, that’s really the passion of the podcast is just to bring awareness, encouragement and advocacy for those who are in a foster community and who care for the foster community.
Lynette Ezell: Well it’s a huge encouragement to us, it really is. So when you go to search on iTunes and you do the [inaudible 00:18:52] the adopting of fostering home. You really need to do the Forgotten Podcast hand in hand with that. Moms while you’re putting on your makeup, dads while you’re driving to work or moms while you’re driving it’ll just be an encouragement.
Jami Kaeb: Oh yeah. Well thank you so much, that means a lot.
Tera Melber: Well we are gong to have all of the information about the Forgotten Initiative and the podcast and the Who Love series all on the show notes. But we just could not be more grateful for the time you’ve given us today to share all of this information. And one thing that I really would like for you to have shared is if someone is interested in becoming an advocate, what would their next step be?
Jami Kaeb: Yes, have them go right to the website theforgotteninitiative.org and learn about becoming an advocate or you can just email, Halle@theforgotteninitiative.org and she can send you out all the information about becoming an advocate that way as well. But we need more advocates, I mean there are too many under-served communities out there. We needs Gods people serving and connecting the church to the foster care communities.
Tera Melber: Oh Jami I love hearing your heart. I love your transparency. I love that…I know some mornings when I’m getting up and getting ready and I start listening to your podcast, I know you’re living the same life. It’s like I know that even though I’ve never met you, that..you know that’s what heaven’s for. That we have all this time together to just talk and be with Jesus. And see how he’s worked on all of our lives, you know how he brought us together. But I’m grateful he has merged our lives with yours
Lynette Ezell: Thanks, my favorite statement from today was “Awareness prompted curiosity, and as you prayed you became available and availability let to action.” That’s what we want our listeners to hear and to do. So thanks so much for all that you do for the Kingdom.
Jami Kaeb: Oh you guys, I appreciate it so much. It’s been a great job to be with you and thank you for everything that you are doing. We’re always been together aren’t we?
Tera Melber: Absolutely
Lynette Ezell: Thanks Jami
Announcer: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home. A resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit sendrelief.org