They work with some of the most vulnerable children in the state, offering them restored childhoods and providing them a witness to the grace of God.
Embrace Alabama Kids helps children thrive and gives families hope. As followers of Christ, their passion for serving is motivated by compassion and a calling to care for susceptible children who are in need of someone to care for them when those closest to them aren’t able to adequately provide that care.
“We want to show the love of Christ to those who are abused, neglected and abandoned by their families. We take care of kids from the cradle through college.”Blake Horne, CEO of the ministry
They do this through programs including Homes of Hope, Family Preservation, foster care, school readiness adoption services and Higher Education Homes.
The ministry is in its 131st year, and has remained steadfast because of its Methodist faith, said the Rev. Angie Long, the ministry’s director of development and church relations.
Embrace Alabama Kids is the former United Methodist Children’s Home. UMCH changed the name of its Alabama and Florida ministries in the late 1960s to Embrace Alabama Kids and Embrace Florida Kids to better reflect who they are and what they do.
Despite the name change, the mission remains the same: “In response to God’s word, we embrace and nurture vulnerable children and families by providing homes, healing and hope.”
Embrace Alabama Kids provides this to families, and also provides a home for homeless women and children, a population that merges with its service footprint of serving vulnerable children and families.
“They learn what it is like to be whole and loved,” said Long. “It’s about building relationships with our kids, our supporters. It has become part of the mission.”
Embrace Alabama Kids is headquartered in Montgomery but spreads throughout the state, serving children and families in Florence, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Auburn, Headland, Andalusia, Dothan and Mobile.
“Our kids have come from the most traumatic of experiences, and often, those families are victims of that trauma,” Long said.
“Our goal is to heal. Our God is a redeeming and restorative God, and that’s our every day.
“That’s why we serve in this ministry – to restore these children, for whom there’s been instability and brokenness. When you grow up in a state of survival, it’s very different than when you grow up in a place of love. Our kids grow up in a state of fear and they grow and build walls around their hearts.”
The programs Embrace Alabama Kids provides:
Family Preservation – works to keep families together through education and skill-building resources.
Foster Care – provide homes for youth with a variety of needs, including traditional foster care, therapeutic foster care and specialized care for children with specific needs.
School Readiness and Support – equips parents with a range of resources.
Adoption Services – connects parents who would like to adopt with resources and home studies for domestic and international adoptions.
“We hear how awful things are in the world, and this is something we’re called to do as Christ followers… to help bring healing and redemption,” said Long. “Our purpose is to be part of God’s redeeming work. We talk about being the hands of Christ, but this is taking care of these kids … they need our love and support and help and they need healing.”
The ministry receives private referrals and referrals from the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Income and expense vary from each program. While some are self-funded, collectively, the state’s DHR contract dollars pay a small part of what it costs to operate the homes and programs, and funding constantly shifts and fluctuates.
The remainder of the money comes from donors and churches.
What is the impact? In both Alabama and Florida in 2020:
• 1,712 babies, children, teens, young adults and families were ministered to
• 23,844 days of foster care provided for 176 children and youth while training and supporting 83 foster families
• 24,251 days of care delivered to 167 youth in residential homes, providing food, clothing, counseling, nurturing and guidance
• 246 families kept together through intensive in-home treatment, positively impact the lives of 948 individuals
• 23 forever homes found for children while also training and conducting home studies for families considering adoption
“We want them to live in a place of love and not a place of fear,” Long said. “To know they’re going to be fed, that they have clothes on their back and can do their homework without drama around them.”
The children served are all of the state. While some of them phase out at age 21, Long believes there are some who are older in the foster care programs who have enhanced needs, “so they can stay in our foster care programs later.”
“A lot of our kids, even after they leave our programs, the parents and staff become their family. They’ll come ‘home’ for Christmas. This is their family; they stay connected with us beyond.”
Embrace Alabama Kids also operates the programs at Mary Ellen’s Hearth, which helps women and their children regain independence. They help families obtain stability through housing, education and one-on-one care. Its ultimate goal is to help them transition to an independent and safe environment where both mothers and their children are able to live out successful, purpose-filled lives.
“It fits with our mission,” Horne said. “The second-leading cause of kids entering the foster system behind neglect is homelessness.”
Long said having experienced this in her personal life and in her ministry, she believes God creates family where there is no family, providing resources and connecting people to families.
“The staff is enduring secondary trauma by helping these kids,” she said. “It’s like parenting – you don’t know how hard it is until you get into it. But it’s very fulfilling and rewarding. You sometimes get to enjoy joy and grace in the midst.”
How to get involved: Visit online at embracealkids.org. For churches and groups who want to help, contact Angie Long at 334-799-3604.