A BYU alumni couple has provided refuge for thousands of Northern Californian children.
In 2000 California’s Child Protective Services (CPS) removed two brothers from an abusive home and placed them in foster care. Encouraged by their foster mom, they read book series like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, and they loved it. In a new environment, the boys began to soar in school, gaining confidence to succeed. Now one brother works as a Tesla mechanic, while the other recently finished college and started his career working with Walmart.
“You can count the number of seeds in a single apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a single seed,” says Benjamin E. Payne (BS ’83) of fostering these boys and many other children over the years. He and his wife, Heather, started Children’s Hope Foster Family Agency more than 20 years ago, providing safe, temporary homes for displaced youth in Northern California.
Children’s Hope was formed when Ben, a counselor for group homes at the time, was approached by the managing company to start a foster agency. At first he hesitated, but the promptings of the Spirit and the nudging of Heather led him to switch his focus. The agency started with just the two of them—Ben drawing on his work in counseling and Heather on her experience as a registered nurse. Together they recruited resource (foster) parents from good people seeking to serve. “Resource parents want to help,” Ben says. “They come from different backgrounds. But there is a goodness in them.”
Calls began pouring in as resource parents became available. “We would get calls from CPS after hours, on the weekends and holidays, and during the daytime for placements,” Ben says. They would rush to remove youth from all types of abuse and neglect. “Many times Heather and I were picking up youth in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their back or sometimes not even that,” Ben says.
Over time the Paynes built Children’s Hope into an effective community of team members with 180 foster homes that provide 300 foster children and youth with normal lives and experiences.
Children’s Hope aims to help foster youth excel, no matter their past experiences.
Heather remembers one 14-year-old foster boy joining a baseball team for the first time. “He was so happy to just belong on the team, even though he really could not catch or throw or anything,” she says.
“[He] was the biggest cheerleader,” Ben explains. “He really raised their enthusiasm, and they recognized it was a great privilege to be out there playing baseball. Not every kid has that privilege and opportunity.”
The Paynes see divine direction within Children’s Hope. “Heavenly Father is so aware of all His children, whoever they are,” Heather says. Together, they have witnessed miracles and grown their spiritual capacity to serve and love. “It is not necessarily for the benefit of any of us,” says Heather. “This all happens because Heavenly Father wanted to make a difference for that suffering child. He can make a difference through us.”