There are 58 acres of land with a pool, gym, playgrounds and beautiful homes spread out across the property. Christ’s Haven is a home for children. This is a voluntary placement home for families going through a difficult time. Since 1954, Christ’s Haven has provided a stable home to over 6,000 children. In addition to providing for their needs such as medical, academic and counseling services, Christ’s Haven strives to help children grow physically, emotionally, academically and spiritually. Each of the houses consists of a loving couple (house parents) and up to eight children. The houseparents look after the kids, take them to church on Sunday’s, help them through difficult events in their lives and give them a stable environment.
Cameron, a resident of Christ’s Haven and a junior at Timber Creek, said, “[The] house parents there have a very nurturing feel to them. It feels like a normal home, really. It’s not like some kind of orphanage…it feels more like a community there.”
Peggy Smyers, a house parent for 25 years who recently retired, has seen many kids come through her house. She has been a parent to kids of all ages, ranging from two years to 18 years of age. Some of her children are now 50 years old.
“When kids are displaced and traumatized, sometimes they can start to heal with a good, strong, loving family,” Smyers said. “The structure helps them know what to expect, which is new for most of them, and the discipline helps them become dependent and independent at the same time somehow. Often they just needed to learn to relax and play, and see that being nice to each other is good for everyone.”
In the early 1950’s, Homer and Lilian Steadman became acutely aware of the incredible need many children in the Dallas/Fort Worth area had for a safe and loving home. Within one week of opening their home for foster children, the couple found themselves surrounded by ten children and teens. In the months that followed, Homer and Lilian called upon their friends and fellow church members to share in their dream. In 1956, the first home was opened on an expansive property in Keller, Texas. Christ’s Haven has been home to over 6,000 children in need. In addition to providing a safe home and resources for children ages 2-18, there is also a transition program in place that provides support for college and housing, helping successfully launch kids into adulthood.
“We are providing a safe and loving home for kids in need. We can’t replace what they have lost but we can provide hope for a brighter future.” said Lisa Fandrich, Director of Donor Relations.
The adults and older children at Christ’s Haven help the new kids transition into their new life. Cameron and his brother Christian have been fundamental in helping some boys as young as 11 years old transition into Christ’s Haven.
Christ’s Haven put seven ideals into practice using the Sanctuary Institute Trauma Informed Model: nonviolence, emotional intelligence, inquiry and social learning, open communication, social responsibility, shared governance, and growth and change. In this community, they help the children get back on their feet by encouraging them to get involved in school, extra-curricular activities and events at their church of choice.
Cameron and his brother Christian have been at Christ’s Haven since Oct. 6, 2013. Due to problems at home, their uncle decided to bring them to Christ’s Haven to give them a better environment. Cameron said it was a difficult transition, but while he was going through a difficult time in 2016, he got the help he needed. There were adults and many older boys who were there to help him get through the hard events in his life.
“Besides my church experience, being baptized and coming to Christ, we also have counselors [at Christ Haven] in case things get really bad. I had a really low point last year- they take all precautions needed…The house parents are all trained to help provide emotional support [as well],” Cameron said.
Smyers has dealt with and helped many kids, like Cameron, through difficult situations. Her signature saying that many kids have adopted over the years is “Oh well.”
Smyers mentored a boy over the years, she said, “One of our boys, who’s now in his forties told me a few years ago that he had learned from us to say ‘oh well’…Oh well that so many of his relatives live the way they do. He can be whoever he chooses and he refuses to live like that. It’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.”
Smyers explained that the house was hectic at times, but mostly happy. Her biological daughter loved being in that environment. Smyers daughter explained that there was always someone there for the good times and the bad. Her best friends lived with her and she did not have to wait to see them, they were always with her.
Smyers looked back on her time as a house parent and rejoices over the time she got to spend with all the kids.
“It still amazes me that we were allowed to spend so many years being part of their lives. We witnessed great accomplishments and sad disappointments… celebrated birthdays, holidays and regular days that some might have never had. I loved being their mom,” said Smyers.
Christ’s Haven is not a foster home. They nurture their children and make sure they do the best for them. The houseparents make the commitment to be with the children for as long as they are needed. The community is built on donations and is not funded by the state.
”We want to spread the word and create more awareness around how our community can support the life changing work we do at Christ’s Haven,” said Fandrich.
The houseparents and staff work very hard to provide stability, support and resources for every child who calls Christ’s Haven their home. Visit www.christshaven.org for more information.