The Cooks’ house looks different today as does the family that lives in it.
The home of Roger and Shanell, along with seventeen-year-old son Jackson, used to contain both a living room and a separate sitting room. Not long ago, Roger and his son took hammer and nail to the sitting room transforming it into another bedroom – big enough for two children if the need arises.
Seventeen-year-old Jackson Cook gives his adopted sister Makayla, age 8, a piggy back ride. Jackson shared with his parents that his only regret about becoming a foster care family is he wished they had done it sooner.
For sixteen years of Jackson’s life, there were three members of the Cook household. Now, there have been as many as eight. Their household, and their lives, completely changed in 2018 when the Cooks became a licensed foster family through Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH).
Jackson recently shared his one regret about his family’s new dynamic: “I wish we’d done this sooner.”
“I always tear up when I think about him saying that,” says Shanell.
Roger and Shanell wanted to have more children after Jackson was born, but were unable.
After Roger successfully battled esophageal cancer in 2017, the Cooks began evaluating what they saw as an opportunity for their family.
“Roger’s battle was a long journey, but God is good,” Shanell proclaims. “We always wanted four children, and we saw this as God giving us a second chance.
“We felt the need to foster with the intent to adopt.”
Shanell learned of BCH’s family foster care program as she was chatting with BCH staff members who bank where she is employed. She and Roger agreed that they wanted to learn more about fostering through BCH and what it would look like for their family.
Danetta Christmas, director of Foster Care at BCH’s Mills Home in Thomasville, was at their house the following evening.
Danetta’s role is to train and license families as well as supervise case management staff members who provide ongoing support to those families. Danetta’s team works with families and churches located in counties within the Mills Home service area. BCH has family foster care offices and staff throughout North Carolina.
The Cooks began their training in September 2017 and were licensed in early 2018.
“The calls immediately started coming in,” Shanell says regarding children in need of fostering. The couple included Jackson in the decision-making process as they prayed and discussed the children who could potentially come into their home.
The Cook family, left to right, Shanell, Jackson, Makayla and Roger Cook. Watch the Cook’s three-minute video below.
“This wasn’t just about myself and Roger, but about Jackson,” Shanell explains. “It needed to be the right fit for everyone.”
That “right fit” turned out to be a timid seven-year-old girl named Makayla.
“We first met her the week of Valentine’s Day and fell in love with her immediately,” Shanell beams. “Within ten days, she was living with us.”
Makayla had suffered a traumatic family history that left a number of emotional scars which the Cooks recognized immediately.
“She was so shy. She had no self-esteem and no confidence. It took a while to build it up,” Roger says.
As the weeks and months passed, Makayla began to see that the Cooks genuinely cared about her.
“She completely blossomed,” Roger continues. “She is very bright, energetic and talkative. She’s the little sparkplug to our family.”
A little more than a year after they began fostering her, the adoption became official.
Makayla became a permanent member of the Cook family on April 26, 2019. The larger family the Cooks always dreamt of was now reality.
However, as they fostered Makayla and continued working with BCH, the couple began seeing foster care through another filter.
“Through Danetta’s training and God working through her, we have seen it’s not all about adoption anymore,” Shanell reveals.
“Fostering is about doing God’s work,” Roger adds. “This may be the only chance a child gets to see a Christian family. No matter how long we have that child, it’s an opportunity.”
That opportunity has presented itself to the Cooks multiple times. In a year and a half, they have fostered seven children ranging from seven months to nine years old. Makayla and the other children attend church and children’s activities which included Vacation Bible School this past summer. It was at VBS that the Cooks’ newly-adopted daughter and two boys they foster accepted Christ as Savior.
“It was the greatest belated birthday gift!” exclaims Shanell, who celebrated a birthday that same week.
The family continues to look expectantly towards God, trusting Him to continue filling the extra room they have built. They are completely committed to fostering through Baptist Children’s Homes.
“Baptist Children’s Homes is a Godly, Christian organization, and I encourage people to foster through them,” shares Shanell. “They offer more resources, more help and more hope than anywhere else you’re going to go.”
“We built the extra room and God’s filled it,” Roger says. “It’s God’s timing and God’s plan. We just have to be willing to answer the call when He makes it.”
If you would like to become a foster care family or if your church is interested in starting its own foster care ministry, call Baptist Children’s Homes at 800-476-3669 and visit bchfostercare.org to learn more.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Blake Ragsdale is director of communications at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.)