(Carly) We both looked at each other, and I was like, “Umm, we’ve never been parents, I can’t even keep plants alive and they want to give us four kids.”
(VO) “Stories of Hope” a podcast about people who meet needs and change lives.
(VO) In this episode, Jon and Carly Souza had only been married a few weeks when they began the journey of foster care… caring for orphans and outcasts in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(VO) This is “Stories of Hope” from Send Relief— “Let’s Bring’em Home”…
(SFX) Opening announcements at Hope Church
(Carly) We were sitting in church and the missions pastor was doing announcements and he said that Clark County was in desperate need of foster parents. Jon was like, “I really thing we’re supposed to do this fostering thing.” And I was like, “Ah, dang it, I think so, too.” So that’s where it all started.
(VO) Newlyweds Jon and Carly Souza decided God was calling them to be foster parents so they signed up to be certified. The county, desperate for help, fast-tracked their training. So still just a few months married, the caseworker presented them with a shocking proposal.
(Carly) She pulled out a piece of paper from her pocket, and on that piece of paper there was three groups of four siblings listed. And she said, “All 3 of these sibling groups are court-ordered to be placed together. You guys have space to take a sibling group of four. How do you feel about taking one of these groups?”
(Jon) It was a shock to be 23 years old, to just be newly married, and to bring home four children.
(VO) Regardless, Jon and Carly accepted the challenge and took in four kids, the oldest was only five years old. Jon traveled for work, and so, three days later, he left town. That’s when Carly began to doubt this decision.
(Carly) I can remember sitting on the couch and just feeling like, “Lord, I don’t know why you thought I was the right girl for this job, but you were wrong.”
(VO) An older family friend came over, and Carly learned about the importance of a support system.
(Carly) She said, “Why aren’t these kids napping?” And I was like, “Well, they told me they don’t take naps.” And she was like, “Honey, they don’t get to decide that.” I was like, “I don’t know, I’ve never been a mom.” So she came in and said, “Here’s the plan. I’m going to put them down for a nap, and you’re going to go take a shower.” And I was like, “Okay, I like that plan.”
(VO) That was just the beginning, eventually with the support of family and friends, and naps, Carly and Jon got the hang of this parenting thing. And the children continued to come.
(Carly) We had a biological son during that time so we had five kids, and at that point, I transitioned to being a stay at home mom, and then we brought home a newborn baby, and actually just a few weeks after we brought her home, we found out that we were pregnant again, so our youngest two baby girls are one day shy of being nine months apart.
(VO) For those who might be math-challenged, ten years later, Jon and Carly now have seven children.
(Carly) They are seven, eight, nine, eleven, 13, 14, 15. Five of those seven are adopted, and then we had one biological son, adopt one more, and then had a biological daughter.
(SFX) NS of Souza Household
(VO) What’s a household like with seven kids going to soccer, gymnastics and music all at the same time?
(Jon) I think for that, you have to take a peek into our van. (Laughs) I think the van says it all. Just simply because you can step into our van at any point and time in our day, and know where we’ve been and how quickly we need to get there. It has all needs and necessities. You know, kids forget shoes, “don’t worry we’ve got shoes in the van.” (laughs) Kids forgot breakfast, “don’t worry, there’s plates, and forks, and spoons in the van.” There’s snacks in the van. There’s blankets in the van. Life around here is fun. It is on the go.
(SFX) NS of Jose Souza rapping
(Jose) I like to play music, and write music, and rap, and all sorts of stuff with music. It comes from my really tough past.
(VO) Jose is 15 and the oldest of the Souza’s seven kids. He was five and the oldest of the first four who came to live with Jon and Carly. He’s also the only one really old enough to remember his life before that time.
(Jose) Me, being the oldest from there, knowing the most. They were always out and I had to take care of the three younger siblings. I’ll probably always have those memories from when I was younger. It was pretty hard.
(SFX) NS Jose rapping
(Jose) I write my music so people could hear battles that I faced, and I want people to listen to my music so that they can see that they’re not alone.
(Carly) The fact that our kids have now been given the opportunity to break the cycle, and that when they grow up whatever they decide to step into, whether it’s being a rapper or being a professional athlete, you know they have all these dreams. But they have a family to fall back on no matter what happens.
(VO) At seven kids, Jon and Carly felt like that had reached their capacity in their home, but their county still had so many more kids who needed help.
(SFX) Street Noise from Fremont Street in Vegas
(Carly) Clarke County is constantly in a desperate state as far as foster care is concerned. I think the fact that Las Vegas is such a transient city has a lot to do with that, where there are so many alternatives that might temporarily feel like family. They just get sucked into human trafficking or gangs.
(VO) Carly and Jon launched Fostering Hope with the goal of getting more Christian families involved in foster care. The group is hosted and supported by the their home church, Hope Church.
(Carly) People in churches look at foster families as one of two things. Either like complete heroes, like they are not accessible almost, or like complete crazy people. Like why would they commit to doing this.
(SFX) NS of Fostering Hope support group
(VO) Fostering Hope models what it looks like to be foster parents, and supports families who take that big step. The group represents 15 churches in Las Vegas.
(SFX) NS of Fostering Hope support group
(VO) For John and Angela King, seeing the Souzas and other foster families made the possibility of being foster parents feel real.
(John) We decided to foster through a process of prayer and exploration even before we moved to Vegas, and when we came to Hope there was a real clear vision for a ministry that was just starting. So about two years ago, we really started launching into that journey, and preparing to be foster parents.
(Angela) But I think we had never really seen very many people doing foster care so it was very scary. So when we moved here, and were around other families who were doing it, it was like, “Okay, maybe that’s something we can handle.”
(VO) Now the King’s have three biological children; 9,7 and 4, but they are also fostering a brother and sister, 4 and 1. But they have seen lives changed even beyond their foster children.
(Angela) For believers to recognize their calling and step up in their communities where there are foster kids, that could have a huge impact. You know, if each church, one family, would take a foster child, there wouldn’t be any kids waiting anymore.
(John) We’ve seen people from the Department of Family Services come and visit our church because they just want to know, “What’s the difference, why are there people from this church who are just flooding into our system to take care of kids they don’t even know.”
(VO) For Jon and Carly Souza, their church, and the other families of Fostering Hope… the lives they change will outlast them.
(Carly) Our senior pastor always says, “A hundred years from now, Hope Church probably won’t exist, but what will we do in our community that will show a hundred years from now.”
(Jon) If the Church were to take back that responsibility and put its’ full force behind it, it would have a generational impact and it would have a significant change.
(SFX) NS of the Souza House
(VO) The Souzas don’t have to look any farther than their own home to see that generational change.
(Carly) If you were to ask any of our kids at a moment’s notice, if there was a kid in our community who needed somewhere to go, every single one of them would say, “Let’s bring’em home.” Even though our house is loud and crazy and messy and smelly and all sorts of things, it’s better than the alternative.
(SFX) Jose Song
(VO) You can hear the change in the rhymes of 15-year old Jose Souza.
(Jose) A place where we thought there’s no hope, no way out, to a place where we could just praise God for.
(VO) This has been “Stories of Hope” from Send Relief, “Let’s Bring’em Home”
(VO) Fostering Hope is helping churches and believers how to reach out to the orphans and parentless in their community. To connect with them or to learn more about how Fostering Hope does what they do, go to send relief dot org.
(VO) And join us in two weeks for another episode of “Stories of Hope.”