PHOENIX, Ariz. (BP) – One thing became clear to Tia Harwood after becoming a foster parent – the importance of something to call your own.
Foster care runs deep with complications and emotion. Children leave an unsafe situation, but go to an unfamiliar home. The home is safe. Yet, it’s still not theirs. A sense of loss is inescapable.
Harwood became a foster parent in March 2020 while serving as kids ministry director at Valley Life Church in Phoenix. It soon became clear she needed to devote more time to her role as a foster parent as well as to her three young children, so she stepped down from her leadership role while continuing to serve as a volunteer.
The child eventually returned to his biological parents, but the year-and-a-half he spent with her family changed Harwood forever. It also led to her co-founding Creation Awaits Crafts.
“I thought of all the things he loved while he was with us,” Harwood said. “He was overjoyed when he saw something with his name on it. I began reaching out to foster agencies on what I could do to help them. Would it be OK if I made items that had the names of the children in their care?”
Harwood settled on keychains with the name of a foster child provided by local agencies. The first one gave her 300 names. Others provided 200 or so. They were an immediate hit with the kids, the agencies told her.
Harwood bought the supplies and made keychains at her kitchen table. Each one needed only 30 minutes to make. But any mom can tell you that time management is a formidable opponent, requiring the discipline and skill Harwood taps in to as a mother, church ministry volunteer and jiu-jitsu coach for her children.
According to the Arizona Department of Child Safety, there are more than 14,000 children in the state’s foster care system, but only approximately 4,500 licensed foster families.
At one point Harwood was making 75 keychains a week, an unsustainable pace that still wasn’t meeting the number of requests. Her friend, Terri Raynes, agreed to partner with her in January.
Raynes serves as children’s ministry director at Grace Point Church in Surprise, Ariz. Grace Point began as Valley Life Church-Surprise, a separate campus of Valley Life Church until it became self-sufficient and adopted a new name. Valley Life Church was a North American Mission Board church plant 11 years ago that has since planted six other congregations, all of those but the most recent have become self-sustaining.
Valley Life Pastor Brian Bowman, there since the church’s founding, received a keychain of a child for whom he is reminded to pray every time he sees it, which is a lot.
“My wife and I got one. It was super-emotional,” he said. “Between our church and Grace Point, we have about 10 families involved in foster care.”
The keychains are sold at CreationAwaits.org alongside other items that help fund the ministry. “Thank you so much for providing the keychains for our families. It was very generous and thoughtful of you to give these gifts,” reads one testimonial.
It was tough for Harwood and her family when their foster son left. Her kids had welcomed him as a little brother. “But we knew it didn’t matter how many days he was in our home,” she said. “We just wanted to love him and show him Jesus.”
Currently, she and Raynes are producing 100 keychains a week. “We’ve heard the stories of children showing up at a home with nothing, maybe some clothes in a trash bag,” Harwood said. “This is a little something with their name on it.
“We’re trying to show these kids that they’re seen and they’re known, and that there’s hope.”