by John W. Kennedy / May 21 2021
Retired public schoolteacher Crystal Liechty knew it would take a united effort to improve the foster care situation in the Lone Star State.
“Texas builds prisons based on the number of kids in foster care,” says Liechty, who attends Northplace Church in Sachse, a northeast Dallas suburb.
Liechty and her husband of 41 years, Jeff, who serves as missions director at the church, fostered 13 children over a 20-year period. The Liechtys, who met as students while attending North Central University, also have a 25-year-old daughter, Jaqlynn, adopted out of foster care at the age of 2. The couple fostered in an era when foster parents didn’t receive much support from churches.
However, when the Liechtys started attending Northplace, they found a compassionate ministry initiated by pastor Bryan Jarrett and his wife, Haley. Lonesome Dove Ranch is a refuge for abused, neglected, and orphaned children.
Seven years ago, as a volunteer, Liechty started Northplace Church Orphan Care. Initially, the ministry focused on stocking essential supplies for foster families in the church, items such as pajamas, toothbrushes, diapers, wipes, and formula.
Even though Northplace is a megachurch, Liechty realized to meet all of the foster care needs in the region would take more helpers than one church alone can provide.
So she began facilitating foster care/adoption trainings at other churches. Those congregations in turn began establishing their own programs. In addition, Liechty began working support systems via social media, doing everything from hosting adoption parties to conducting diaper drives.
“Our main purpose is to recruit families, so that the kids in Child Protective Services are moved into Christian homes,” says Liechty, 60. “We don’t care where they come from.”
Liechty now resources foster and adoptive families in 17 churches of various denominations. She is the liaison to connect providers who have received training to the resources they need. Long ago, Liechty concluded that while not all churchgoers can be foster parents, everyone can provide wraparound care in some way, whether financially or by other supportive means.
One of the dozens of couples influenced by Liechty is John and Kamil Kell, who have attended First Assembly in Lavon since 2017. With the backing of lead pastor Mike L. Powell, they recently initiated a foster care ministry called Community of Hope at the church in Lavon, a town of 3,700 on the northeast outskirts of Dallas.
Before they wed in 2013, the Kells met while attending Evangel Church in Wichita Falls, pastored by Kile and Patti Bateman. John supported the Phased IN ministry started by Kile that ministers to those who have aged out of the foster care system. John served on the Phased IN advisory board, mentored residents, and even taught cooking classes.
That experience, and Liechty’s training and encouragement, helped the Kells commit to being foster parents. More than 50 kids have lived in their home, most of them in respite care. John, who had a 21-year U.S. Army career, is a high school junior ROTC teacher as well as a town councilman.
“Initially, we didn’t think we could foster, but the more information we got we realized that those fostering are just ordinary people like us,” says Kamil, 38, an in-home day care provider. “God equips us with the love we need to give each child.”
The ministry implemented at the church offers a closet of items for immediate needs. The Kells also have hosted CPR first aid classes and informational meetings for families interested in fostering.
Lead Photo: Northplace has a vibrant ministry supporting foster care and adoption.
Bottom Photo: Kamil and John Kell are passing along lessons they have been taught