The CALL in Cleburne County recently announced that Casey and Felicia Stone of Heber Springs are the 2018 Arkansas Foster Parents of the Year.  The Stone family are true advocates for foster care and The CALL.  They have been fostering for the past five years and are very active with The CALL in Cleburne County.  They even spend weekends going to different churches to promote The CALL in Cleburne County and the need for foster families.  The Stones have three biological daughters who are also involved in their foster care journey. 

“We have three biological daughters, Shelby (19), Abby (17), and Sophie (13). For us, foster care has always been a family effort. Our girls tell us they each plan to become foster and/or adoptive parents someday. They can’t imagine a life not doing this.” said Stone.

Felicia Stone told The Sun Times, “Years ago we became aware of the struggles of a single mom of ten children (ages less than 1 to 11 years) whose children were taken into foster care. At first our thoughts toward her were negative as we discussed her situation with friends over dinner. As our discussion continued God began to change each of our hearts and by the time dinner was over we were convicted to help this struggling mom instead of judge her. I reached out to the DCFS county supervisor to see what we could do to help. She told me we could help with some repairs to her home and yard to make her home safe for the children. We organized a team of people from 3 or 4 different churches to help with childcare, yard and house repairs. This effort helped the mom to reach the goals of her case plan and she got her children back. Over the next months we formed a relationship with the mom and children, invited them to church activities and into our home occasionally. We  helped her with childcare so she could attend court. Several months passed and her children were taken into care once again. She had been reported for leaving several sleeping children in her vehicle while she went into the grocery store to purchase formula for the baby. When the children went back into Care this time, they were real people to us. We loved them and knew how much they loved and depended on each other. We were devastated to learn they were split up and most of them sent outside of Cleburne County. The youngest were placed in local foster homes (we only had 4 Cleburne foster homes at the time) and the oldest in emergency shelters outside of our county. We were helpless to do anything even though there was space for them in our home. It was then that we decided we needed to become foster parents. We were never able to foster those children because their case had resolved by the time we were a licensed home, but they are the ones who prompted us to do something. “

Dr. John and Ashley Herring have known the Stones through the CALL (Ashley being the former county coordinator) and said, “They are committed. When they commit, that’s it. There is no turning back. They are persevering people. They become engaged with not only the children, but also the families. They even opened their home up to one of the moms, allowing her to move in with them. They are truly living out their faith by answering “the CALL” to be foster parents. They are on a mission to heal these families.”

When asked what motivates them to continue, Stone said, “Foster care is a ministry to us. It is what God has called our family to do to help make the world a better place. It presents opportunities to share the gospel in both word and deed to people we would otherwise never have contact with. It is both challenging and amazingly fulfilling work. There is nothing quite like it!”

Amanda Bush, County Coordinator for the CALL said, “Casey and Felicia have a couple of things that are key to success as a foster parent. First, they have really big hearts that are not just for the kids but their biological families, also. They are dedicated and have the commitment to see things through. This is what makes them so good at what they do.”

The Stones were among honorees July 20 at a banquet at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. At the event, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) honored foster parents from across the state.

DCFS Director Mischa Martin said the Stone family was selected primarily because they have embraced their role as a “reunification partner” and work closely with the biological families of the children in their care, according to a news release.

“Casey and Felicia are amazing foster parents and are so committed to helping children and their families that they actually closed their foster home for a while, so they could help a mom get back on her feet and be the parent her children needed her to be,” said DCFS Director Mischa Martin.

Casey and Felicia were humbled by the award but proud to accept it on behalf of the children and families who have touched their lives over the past five years that they have been foster parents.

Casey is a self employed home builder and owner of a small family business called Stone Custom Homes. Felicia is a stay at home mom and volunteers for The CALL in Cleburne County. They have been fostering since June 29, 2012, a little over 6 years. In that time they have fostered 30 children ages 0-16 years old anywhere from just overnight to as long as 15 mo. Their favorite stories involve seeing families restored and the cycles of drug abuse overcome. “We enjoy continuing those relationships with the children and bio parents long after they go back home. It is fun to have them over for dinner, babysit, attend birthday parties and other important events.” said Stone.