Isaiah 117 House Helps Children Awaiting Foster Placement
Working as a Boone County volunteer for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Ginger Summers was a voice for abused or neglected children. One day several years ago, Summers accompanied a CASA caseworker for a child removal, and it was an eye-opening experience.
“The look of pure devastation and fear in their eyes when the caseworker told them that they were going to be moving and going into a foster home just broke my heart,” Summers says.
It only got worse when she inquired as to whether the caseworker considered the particular situation a difficult extraction. The caseworker said it was a comparatively easy extraction, and that difficult extractions can include calls to police, stepping over fecal matter, and picking bugs off of the child.
“It took all I had not to lose my composure,” says Summers, who told her husband that if she ever won the lottery, she was going to buy the biggest house possible and fill it full of foster children.
Last March she heard about a foster parent in Tennessee named Ronda Paulson, who had opened Isaiah 117 House after learning that foster children start their journey by sleeping in conference rooms at Department of Children’s Services (DCS) offices.
“When I heard what Ronda had done, I got chills because I realized that this was my lottery home she was describing,” Summers says. “I wanted to do that in my community.”
She wasn’t the only one. Paulson opened Isaiah 117 House in July of 2018 in Carter County, Tennessee. As of November 2020, individuals and groups in 35 states and two countries have inquired about how to get an Isaiah 117 House built in their area. There are currently four homes in Tennessee. In Indiana, one exists in Evansville with another expected in Vincennes in the fall of 2021.
The Boone County location is in an expansion phase, which lasts for six months. During this time, Summers educates the community about the mission of Isaiah 117 as well as the impact it makes on children.
“It’s raising awareness and getting people excited, because so many people want to help but don’t know where to start,” says Summers, adding that churches have donated land, mayors have deeded land, and both contractors and community members have offered services for free.
“Once people hear about it they want to help,” says Summers, noting that DCS may remove newborns up to age 18.
When case workers handle removals, children are often dirty, famished and infested with bugs. At DCS offices, the only place to take a bath is often in a drug-testing sink. When children arrive at Isaiah 117 House, however, they can get clean, eat a meal, take a nap or play in the backyard. The primary goal is to love on the children.
“They have just experienced the worst day of their life, so we want to help make it a little bit better,” says Summers, who serves as Boone County’s expansion coordinator.
The cost to build a home and operate it for one year is $75,000. On April 22, Isaiah 117 House leaders will hold a fundraiser luncheon at the Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds from noon to 1 p.m. Children in Boone County are eager to help, too. Kids in three Zionsville neighborhoods put out lemonade stands in the fall and collectively raised $800.
“It’s mind-blowing what can be done when people are aware of what’s going on,” Summers says.
Though they do not currently have a location for the Boone County house, the organization’s leaders are hoping it will be within 10 to 15 miles of the county’s DCS office in Lebanon.
Isaiah 117 House locations have no exterior signage due to confidentiality reasons. While it will be located in Boone County, the Isaiah 117 House will also serve Hendricks and Montgomery counties, as well as other counties if there is a need. The home, which will include three bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms, is equipped with a big backyard and a 6’ privacy fence with a jungle gym.
“Usually the first thing they want to do is go outside and play, and just be a kid,” Summers says.
Every child who comes to Isaiah 117 House leaves with three new outfits, two pairs of pajamas, a new pair of shoes, and school supplies. The organization also provides foster parents with items such as car seats and pack-and-plays.
Summers says children in every community are affected, regardless of socioeconomic status.
“That’s something a lot of people don’t realize,” she says. “These children are our future leaders so we need them to know that this is not their fault, and while this is not a great chapter of their book, it doesn’t have to define them. They can overcome this. They matter.”
To learn more about Isaiah 117 House in Boone County or to make a donation, call 423-518-3760, extension 623, and visit them online.