Dave and Adell McHugh may not have the title, but they effectively serve as ministers to children.
The McHughs, who live in Harmony and are members at Western Avenue Baptist Church in Statesville, have been foster parents for more than 20 years. They started keeping foster children in 1969 in Ohio until they moved to North Carolina 17 years later.
The couple started again more than four years ago in Iredell County.
“It is a distinct calling that the Lord has laid on our hearts to minister to children,” said Adell McHugh, who works part-time as church secretary at Jerusalem Baptist Church in Mocksville.
The McHughs feel so strongly about foster parenting that they organized a visit to Western Avenue by a social worker to speak with anyone interested in the issue.
The McHughs became foster parents when they initially believed they wouldn’t have children born to them.
Later their two sons, David, 36, and Josh, 31, were born.
“They were two children we were told we’d never have,” Adell McHugh said.
The McHughs continued as foster parents, keeping mostly boys in Ohio. After they’d kept a baby girl for a while, a social worker asked if they’d be interested in adopting her.
“It had been something we’d been praying about,” Adell McHugh said.
Sarah McHugh, 26, now works for a manufacturer in Statesville.
She served in Iraq for a year with the Army Reserves as a backup driver for a large vehicle with a crane on the back.
The McHughs were licensed as foster parents in North Carolina in February 2005 and recently adopted two children they first served as foster parents — four-year-old twin girls.
The McHughs said their sons, who also live in the area, think of the girls as their little sisters.
Foster parenting is a good fit for the McHughs. Dave McHugh works nights at a Lowe’s Home Improvement distribution center near Statesville.
“I don’t have a problem getting up in the middle of the night,” Adell McHugh said.
Dave McHugh said foster parents have to realize that there are sad times when a baby they may have kept for two years has to leave.
“It’s difficult to let them go after you’ve gotten so attached to them,” he said.
“You’re never ready for that,” Adell McHugh said.
But, she said, foster parents know that another child is going to come to them.
That recently happened to the McHughs when a newborn they had been keeping was adopted.
Adell McHugh said she was happy that the child was going to a “forever home” but it was still difficult.
“It was crying over who’s leaving and crying over who’s coming at the same time,” she said.
In Ohio, the McHughs kept a little boy for about three years, starting when he was two years old. The boy looked like Muhammad Ali and learned to talk like the famous boxer.
“He was a child that everywhere he went people were touched,” Adell McHugh said. “He was a blast, an absolute blast.”
The McHughs are heartened when such kids who have gone through “horrific” things go on to college, and live for the Lord.
Dave McHugh said that in addition to helping kids, foster parents also many times give birth parents an opportunity to get their lives together.
“It’s a real blessing,” Dave McHugh said. “It’s an opportunity to meet the needs of children and their parents.”
The McHughs now help train potential foster parents, serving on panels to share the joy it has been in their lives.
“It’s a wonderful way to serve little children, to provide a Christian, loving environment for a child,” Adell McHugh said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foster parenting is done county by county. To investigate the possibility of becoming a foster parent, call your county department of social services. DeVane is the former Biblical Recorder managing editor.)