Connie Maxwell’s Ministry Transforms Single Parent Families
Shirley and her three-month-old twin daughters moved to Connie Maxwell Children’s Home in March to join the Family Care Ministry program. In the time since, Shirley has earned her GED, enrolled in Piedmont Technical College, celebrated one year of sobriety, and obtained a driver’s license.
“Achieving these accomplishments has meant more than I can begin to put into words. I can honestly say, I am no longer ashamed of the woman that I see when I look in the mirror. I give all the glory to God. Without His mercy and grace, none of this would even be possible,” she says.
Program Director Diana Johnson has met many mothers like Shirley, who arrive at Connie Maxwell with personal struggles, financial burdens, and little to no support. The ministry she oversees was created out of the institution’s desire to help families and assist mothers who are at risk for losing their children.
“If we can reach the entire family, then we can hopefully prevent some of these children from coming into care one day,” Johnson says.
While they can accommodate up to nine families at one time, seven families currently reside at Connie Maxwell in the Family Care program. Since it began four years ago, 40 families have been served. In all, the ministry has reached 122 individuals, 82 of which were children.
Just as no two families are alike, each new family at Connie Maxwell arrives with a variety of experiences and needs. This means that the Family Care ministry must be prepared to customize how it meets these needs.
“We are fluid, in that Connie Maxwell helps with any phase of the mother’s needs, including helping her get on her feet while her children are not in her care, and until they are back in her care,” Johnson says.
The Family Care program will take referrals from any source, including churches and counselors, but typically receives families through government agencies. Johnson and her team assess each new family’s personal history and individual needs of mothers and children.
The two-year residential program is set up in phases of assistance that include a variety of coordinated services and training. So, mothers must sign an agreement to participate and meet requirements at each phase of assistance or risk being removed from the program.
“The commitment on the mom’s part is huge, so we also have to gauge commitment. Moms are required to be removed from their current situation as much as possible, so no phones and other forms of contact are allowed. We also consider participants already in the program, the space we have available, and whether we can provide the services this family needs in order to be successful,” Johnson says.
By the time new families move in, assistance has already begun. Service coordinators and a case manager communicate regularly with the mothers, helping them obtain a GED, line up mandatory weekly community service hours, job training, and parenting classes. As of August 22, three resident mothers will be college students. A pot luck dinner is held on the third Tuesday of each month for families and staff, where they share verbal praises and celebrations.
“To have the opportunity to see these mothers flourish and give their life to the Lord, become self-sufficient, and grow with their children is huge. I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to give them everything. I see my role as leading well and being present for them for what they need that day,” Johnson says.
Connie Maxwell’s program provides more than knowledge and tools to help a family become self-sufficient; it also provides intensive spiritual support. Individual and group Christian counseling is provided to every family. Mothers are required to be in a Bible study group and participate in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program for biblical guidance in saving, budgeting, and managing money. Johnson reports that many mothers are baptized while in the Family Care program. Others, like Shirley, deepen their relationship with Him.
“At Connie Maxwell, I have drawn even closer to God, thanks to the wonderful Bible studies that we have and to all the wonderful volunteers. I am so thankful for this program and the people that work so hard to make it possible,” Shirley says.
Johnson credits her volunteer base and regular donations with helping with the effectiveness of the ministry. A team from South Main Baptist in Greenwood leads Bible studies and has kept children so that their mothers can participate in functions. One volunteer organized a diaper drive. Another group provided study Bibles for the mothers.
Looking forward, Johnson says she’s applied for grants to build a study hall for the families – a quiet library where mothers can work on their education, and children can go to read. There is a need for long-term mentors, either individuals or families, who can support the resident families emotionally and spiritually, or take them out for a meal every now and then. Johnson says many mothers in the program have no family support, so positive, Christian mentoring could be a powerful influence.
“These families come in so broken, unchurched, and untrusting. What I do is not just a job; I come here to do what God sees fit for me to do,” she says.
Johnson keeps two framed reminders of her work on her office wall – $500 in Monopoly money given to her by a child, and a picture of Heather with her children and Heather’s quote that reads, ‘I appreciate everything that you have and are doing for me and my children. I’m so thankful that one person on this earth has faith and confidence in me. I know that you and God love me and my children, and he put you in my life.’
“So many would be in a real struggle without ministries like this; they are vital for survival for so many families and children. Many parents have gotten lost – spiritually, or just in being able to provide – and if it weren’t for ministries like this, they would get so lost that I don’t know that we could find them again in order to help. From the smile on a child’s face because his mom is in a safe place and he has a place to sleep tonight, or the look on a mom’s face that she could feed her child, I wish you could witness what we witness,” Johnson says.