Welcome to The Foster Friendly Podcast

Welcome to The Foster Friendly Podcast. We’re bringing foster care closer to home by sharing stories from the front lines. We’re talking with former foster youth, foster parents and others who are finding unique and powerful ways to dramatically improve the experiences and outcomes for kids in foster care.

In the premiere episode of the Foster Friendly podcast, Brian, Travis, and Courtney take us through personal tales — revealing their identity as foster or adoptive parents — alongside America’s Kids Belong establishment odyssey. The inception stories lead to the unveiling of Foster Friendly’s mission and inject themes like infertility plus adoption: weaving a rich tapestry that paints both the challenges and rewards borne out of parenthood. As we trace back to America’s Kids Belong roots and survey the wake left by their work within foster care systems, our dialogue finds itself exploring Dreammakers’ genesis— signifying further exploration into foster care mechanisms coupled with an unveiling of Foster Friendly initiative. Unpackaging is done on how businesses, churches, and communities should support foster families, all tied back towards understanding why this podcast even exists; a purposeful teaser for what lies ahead in their webinar series.

The Foster Friendly podcast is brought to you by America’s Kids Belong, a nonprofit that helps kids in foster care find belonging in both family and community.

Thank you for listening to this episode of The Foster Friendly Podcast. 

To sign up for our 2024 FosterCon Webinar Series, go to AmericasKidsBelong.org/lp/Fostercon-Webinars

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Foster Friendly Business or sponsoring the show, please visit AmericasKidsBelong.org/Foster-Friendly-Business


Brian Mavis (00:02.158)
Well, welcome to the pilot episode of the Foster Friendly podcast. Foster Friendly is actually part of a bigger initiative we have where we have a program called Foster Friendly and we have an app called Foster Friendly. And this podcast is here to help support some of that work. And I have with me today, my two intrepid co -hosts.

Travis Vongness and Courtney Williams, and they are both foster and adoptive parents, just really wise and deep wells of wisdom and resources. And so glad, and a little snark from both of them as well. I want to point that out. Yeah. So love to have having them join me. And in today’s pilot episode,

Travis (00:48.431)
Eh, you know.

Brian Mavis (00:56.43)
one, we’re just going to talk about foster friendly in general, what, what we hope to accomplish and how we help to benefit people who are listening, but also do a little bit of introduction into who we are, how we got started. And so, let’s, let’s start on the personal stuff and, and then, we’ll move a little bit more into the mission of foster friendly. So, we’ll start by, we’ll have.

Pearls before swine. That means Courtney will start with sharing with us. Courtney, tell us a little bit about yourself. How many zillions of kids do you have? Things like that. How did you get started in foster care and adoption? So take some time to share who you are with our audience.

Courtney (01:48.375)
Okay, well, it’s quite the journey for sure. But we started this journey about 17 years ago now. My husband and I struggled with infertility. And then as we were starting to look into adoption, we got pregnant as you often hear.

Brian Mavis (02:01.838)
Of course. What? Okay, there ought to be an episode just on that phenomenon. We would have thousands of people say, yeah, us too.

Travis (02:03.022)
Mm -hmm.

Courtney (02:08.567)
Yeah, yes, we hear a lot.

Travis (02:09.999)
Yeah, exactly. Thousands.

Courtney (02:17.239)
Yes. Yeah. So, and then we ended up having three kiddos. but after our first was born, we had already kind of started that adoption journey. And so our hearts were kind of in it and we got licensed to foster. So 17 years ago, had our first child, got licensed to foster. but then as soon as we got licensed, we were really nervous. We were nervous that it was going to hurt our son, that he was going to be harmed through it. We didn’t know a lot about it. We didn’t have friends and family doing it. So it was kind of just this, this thing out there that we were interested in, but very scared of.

So we actually didn’t take any placements. And then two and three came along, and God just really tugged at our hearts that this was what we were supposed to be doing. And so we made the choice to have no more biological kids and said, we’re all in. We’re going to do foster care and adopt. We went down the route of international adoption and started fostering. So that was about 15 years ago now. We took our first foster care placement. We’ve adopted six kids, three out of foster care, three internationally.

And it’s just been a wild ride. We’ve had roughly 60 kids in and out of our home. Some very short term, we do emergency care as well, but some for a year, three that we’ve adopted and then some you never know. You just never know what you’re gonna get and how long they’re gonna be with you. And so we just continue to say yes. Our family thought five years ago, we thought, okay, we’re done with this. Well, Bobby and I thought we were done with it, my husband and I.

but our kids had a different story. They, actually wrote us a letter. We had moved to Colorado and thought, okay, we were in a new state. We can wipe this one clear. And our kids wrote us a letter. My daughter got all of her siblings, all six. Well, how many were there at the time? Six of them, her six siblings all wrote a letter to us and sign their names saying, Hey, mom and dad, you told us this is our life calling and we’re all willing to share a bed. So what do you get a bedroom? What are you guys waiting for? And we were like, well.

Brian Mavis (03:46.671)
Mm -hmm.

Travis (04:06.864)

Courtney (04:08.663)
I guess we’re going to continue fostering. So.

Brian Mavis (04:11.566)
So, so right now your family from oldest to youngest is how far is this?

Travis (04:11.567)

Courtney (04:17.783)
4 to 22.

Brian Mavis (04:19.502)
4 to 22 and there’s 9 kids. Okay, and so that doesn’t obviously and then there’s some 60 other kids who’ve come through your life at some point.

Travis (04:20.176)

Courtney (04:22.647)
Nine, yep.

Courtney (04:32.823)
Yes. Yeah, we have one additional right now and we have three of our three oldest that were all adopted. They are all out of the house. They’ve all flown the nest and it’s been a journey having your oldest kids be the ones to leave adopted kiddos be the ones to leave first because you know they’ve got some extra challenges but they’re also doing great.

Brian Mavis (04:42.606)

Travis (04:51.216)
I feel like when you go see your friends back in the day when you’re all together, it was like a school that comes on a field trip and it’s like, well, the Williams are here, I guess.

Brian Mavis (04:51.246)

Courtney (05:01.111)
Yeah, we get asked if we’re Mormon or Catholic or whatnot all the time. We have a big passenger van, 12 passenger van, and I love it. I actually like driving it better than my little car.

Brian Mavis (05:07.854)
What do you guys drive? What vehicle do you have for?

Brian Mavis (05:17.23)

Which seems like a segue to going into Travis’s, when Travis bought a bus story, but I think we digressed a little.

Travis (05:27.472)
Well, we, yeah, that’ll come up. That’ll come up. Yep. We need to have fun facts from Courtney before we get into.

Brian Mavis (05:33.838)
Okay, Courtney, what’s a fun fact about you?

Courtney (05:39.607)
Yeah, I would say my fun fact is when my husband and I went on our first date, he asked me start talking about kids. And I told him I wanted 27 kids. And obviously, I was joking, but it was kind of a test to see if he’d really want a lot of kids. And he did not back down. And he didn’t say no. And we’re still together now. So I guess it worked.

Brian Mavis (05:56.142)
Interesting. Wow.

Travis (05:58.576)
Line in the sand. Okay, here it is. Love it.

Brian Mavis (06:04.782)
All right, well thanks, Court. Travis, why don’t you tell us a little bit also about a bit of just the personal origin story of how you got into being a foster and adoptive parent.

Travis (06:19.632)
Yeah. So for us, our story goes back to like, we were living in St. Louis, Missouri, and, you know, I was a caseworker in mental health and, you know, we just had our community there and just love, love St. Louis, but I think something, we just had a restlessness of just like, there just seemed to be more, at least for us to get involved in somehow. I can’t even describe what it was. Cause I knew nothing about foster care and I was a caseworker working with youth and families. And so that kind of tells me.

how invisible for a lot of people it really is. Cause you know, I was sort of in that realm. And anyway, I thought the plan for us was to move down to Charlotte. The rest of my family was in South Carolina. And I thought it’d be like a case, kind of, you know, recreate our St. Louis life closer to family. Well, four months had passed and nothing was happening. And it was just like, we’d start to like even put our home daycare kind of closing things. It was like, we kind of had this.

ending point already happening before knowing the destination, which always a little sketchy, you know, doing, but it was sort of this walk in faith. And at one point in this journey, I mean, I’ve never had anxiety really before this. This is like say 2012 maybe. And all of a sudden I was struck with anxiety over the blue, all kinds of stuff was happening. And like, what is going on? I had a dream and in this dream, it was very clearly this theme of

really said have faith like a child. There were children throughout it and all this kind of stuff. Anyway, I was at about rock bottom of this journey. I don’t, Charlotte’s not happening. I don’t know what’s going on and what we’re supposed to be doing. I sleep deprived, look at my four year old daughter, Joelle, and I said, what do you think God has planned for mom and dad? And it’s like, when you’re asking your four year old for career advice, I mean, your life is probably not going great. So, and, but, and she goes,

Brian Mavis (08:12.686)

Travis (08:15.696)
on flinching. She goes, dad, mom or dad, God wants mom and dad to load our van up with kids that don’t have moms and dads to bring over our house. And instantly I was harking back to like have faith like a child. And then it was sort of like, from there we kind of, okay, something with caring for kids. And that led us into group home care where we saw a home in South Carolina. It was, you know, kids in foster care, but it was a large group home. And that was our first journey then into.

the space of Foxcare was serving eight elementary boys in a house that was wild. So.

Brian Mavis (08:53.07)
So you now, but it takes a little bit again beyond that moment too. I mean, you also have become an adoptive father.

Travis (09:03.215)
Yeah, so we ended up adopting two of the boys that were in our care then. It just seemed like this beautiful way of God sort of transitioning them into our home before. I mean, there was just the hearts were connecting. A lot of people talk about that, just this mutual feeling of that connection. And so we ended up, yep, adopting the two boys, stepped out of that for a brief time. We were fostering before that as licensed foster parents. And then I got a job at the same children’s home as a grant writer.

and writing grants for foster care initiatives. That’s where eventually I met you, Brian, in Charleston, and we connected, needed a grant writer, stepped in, and still here. So, yeah.

Brian Mavis (09:43.374)
Mm -hmm. Yeah. Okay, Travis, fun fact.

Travis (09:50.703)
Well, you’ve already, I mean, you set me up. I wasn’t going to go this route, but now I have to since you alluded to the Greyhound, but yes, mid, midlife crisis about five years ago, maybe a little longer, seven. And I was perusing eBay for a Greyhound bus, bought it. Okay. Delivered from Georgia, drove it back with a friend who was a head of CDL and it sat in our driveway and never moved from then on until we sold it. And it was like,

Brian Mavis (09:55.63)
Travis (10:20.015)
This is just a word of caution for you out there. Like if you have a friend who’s looking for large commercial transit vehicles online, I mean, they need help. They need help. They need intervention. I needed that. That’s right. So, yep. So we, it was just massive. I was like, there’s no way. And then if I’m going to pull anything behind this, now we’re talking like 60 feet. No, no way. So anyway, that was, that didn’t work. So.

Brian Mavis (10:27.854)
They need an intervention. Start showing them Corvettes.

Courtney (10:29.751)
Thank you.

Courtney (10:46.807)
What were you gonna do with it?

Travis (10:48.303)
Well, we are watching a lot of HGTV. And so like, you know, all these young couples and that’s trendy and let’s live in a bus and let’s renovate it. And I was like, I, and I drew farm equipment in North Dakota growing up. So I was used to big things. I got in that thing. It literally felt like Noah’s Ark. I mean, this is like, there is no, how do people drive these? You know? So yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s it. Brian.

Brian Mavis (11:11.726)
Well, as far as midlife crisis goes, that’s a good one. Well, kind of my origin story into this space needs credit to my wife who, as a teenager, felt called towards helping kids who need moms and dads. And so,

Travis (11:17.519)
Yeah, yeah. We’ll tell us about you, Brian.

Brian Mavis (11:38.67)
Then as a married couple with two elementary school daughters, she was feeling lost as far as kind of her purpose in life and how like, how can I do this when she imagined her life as a missionary? And now here she is in United States where everything is great. And we just started exploring a little bit about are there kids?

in the United States who need families. And we within kind of literally no more than two weeks later of starting to explore that question discovered the world of foster care. Julie says she was interested in being a foster mom. I was hesitant to that. So then she asked about being just volunteering at a thrift store that helped foster families. I thought, sure, they mean that seems safe enough.

And then, within weeks of volunteering there, she would just keep coming back with, I saw this kid today. And so she said, I want to be a foster mom. So it was like, all right. So we headed down that journey with, because of her, but then, as a foster parent, it kind of felt, we had a couple of incidences that moved us beyond the personal stuff to what might be considered the.

professional world of foster care. We were foster parents for a little boy that was born, you know, with medically fragile. We had had him for nine months working towards reunification with his, his biological family. And then Julie got an emergency phone call while I was at work. Our caseworker came over and said something horrible had happened and that he would never be reunited with them. You’d never be safe with them.

And so they needed a new goal. And so he needed an adoptive family, asked if we were open to that. We were. And my wife had just started asking a bunch of questions. So we were kind of thrown for a loop and really had gone all in on reunification. So one of the questions she asked was, what would happen to this little boy if we happened to say no to adopting him? And our caseworker said,

Brian Mavis (14:06.35)
he’ll be fine. There’s a line of people waiting for the babies. I just wish there was a line for all the other kids. And Julie’s just said, what other kids? And she said, well, there’s 800 kids in Colorado. And that was true at that time who needed permanent families, needed adopting. And so I come home, Julie’s rehearsing this with me, you know, all night. Then we go to bed, lights out and Julie’s just saying, I can’t quit. Stop thinking about those 800 kids.

that’s an injustice and somebody needs to do something about it. And I thought, crap. And so, cause I knew that somebody who might likely be us. And then a few weeks later, I was on staff at a church in Boulder County and got a call from a caseworker and she asked to meet with me. So she came over and I met her in the lobby. Her name was Cindy and.

First thing she said to me was, thanks for meeting with me. I’ve been trying to meet with a pastor, meet with a church for three years, and you’re the first one to say yes. So I apologize that that had been her experience with the pastors and with churches. And then she just came back to my office. We visited for a little bit. And then she said, Brian, I just came here to tell you one thing in the 26 year history of child welfare at that time in the 26 year history.

She said, there’s never been one day, not one day in 26 years where kids weren’t waiting for families to take care of them. And I have a challenge for you. Would you help me change your weights? Would you help me recruit so many families that they’re on the waiting list, not the kids? And so at that moment really felt that challenge was coming from more than just her. It was a divine moment and accepted that challenge. And so we continue to lean into that.

Courtney (15:42.779)
And so I thought, I’m really falling for it. I was just going for it.

Courtney (15:53.367)
So, okay.

Brian Mavis (15:57.326)
So Julie had kind of had her moment. I had mine, but they were very close together. And, long story short, we just started helping out however we could. And one thing led to another where a few years later we had to start a nonprofit for a doc called Adopt Colorado Kids. Then a few years after that, launched beyond Colorado and became an organization. This nonprofit today called America’s Kids Belong. And we are.

Courtney (15:57.623)
So, John and I had a little bit of a hard time getting very close together. And with the rest of our work, we just started helping out John and me. And we started doing things with other groups of heroes that we had certain nonprofits, for example, the Clubs of Dark Red, and the Jets. And each hero was hopefully able to help John and Cloud. And we came up with a reason to stop property and clean up this kids’ home. And we opened one.

Brian Mavis (16:25.87)
been well known for, we’re the largest and best organization when it comes to videoing the longest waiting kids and doing that really well, both striking that incredible balance between promoting the child and protecting the child. And I’ve always said our innovation wasn’t ever technology, it was always trust. And so we did that and continue to do that around the country. It’s going really well and we have an incredible team. And then,

Courtney (16:26.807)
I’m a father, we have the largest number of kids out of the corner as far as I can see. But anyway, the Lord is with us in Kansas. We’re doing everything we can to help the kids. We’re striking down the global balance between the child and the other child. And the child is in the other education. Every technology was always traced. And so we’re doing that. So I guess you can see that we’re in the country where it’s going. We’re in a global community. And the father from nature.

Brian Mavis (16:55.054)
Foster Friendly is the other key program that we have where we are supporting families who are stepping up to foster because it can be a very messy space, but we don’t think it should be lonely. And we’ve, through this program of Foster Friendly, are helping families foster stronger and longer. So that’s my journey.

Courtney (16:56.535)
So that’s my dream.

Travis (17:17.903)

So America’s Kids Belong really came into existence in, was it 2015 sort of as a transition nationally?

Brian Mavis (17:28.462)
Yes. And so, yeah, I think, you know, all the days are kind of fuzzy because Julie and I didn’t have this grand plan. We were just fostering and then we started volunteering and helping. And then it got to the point where the state said, you guys have to start a nonprofit for the amount of work you’re doing. So I think that happened around like 2011 and then 2000. So like 2007 was when this lady, Cindy, challenged me to change your weights.

Courtney (17:53.271)
This is quite a challenging challenge for me to change my ways. And then at the end of the day, we have a really, we have a college cycle, by the way, at the end of the day. And then a few years later, the problem came back and that’s when we realized we needed not just to improve that solution, but to bring that to life. So that was around 2010, 2011, and that was the crazy thing.

Brian Mavis (17:56.526)
And then a year later, we really, we’ve accomplished that goal, by the way, the year later. And then a few years later, the problem came back again. That’s where we realized we needed not just a recruitment solution, but a retention one. So it was around 2010, 2011, that was the creation of Adopt Colorado Kids. And then 2015 was the, from that became the America’s Kids Belong.

Travis (18:23.439)
Hmm. And the coolest part of that origin story I’m aware of is just you guys were found in Colorado. I mean, by a philanthropist. I mean, and that’s part of the last piece of that.

Brian Mavis (18:36.974)
Yeah, so in 2015, there was a philanthropist, a kind of super interesting guy. I mean, he had one time owned a Hollywood sign, has the world record for flying across the United States faster than anybody else in a twin engine plane, and then has done some other things that are not as flashy, but way, way, way, way more substantial.

And he just sent someone out on an assignment for a year saying, find out what’s working in foster care, kind of what seems really interesting and maybe best bang for the buck, that kind of thing. So this gal discovered us while she was in California, heard about something’s happening in Colorado. So learned about what we were doing. And again, at that time, it was primarily the videos. And she came out a few times and then eventually

just went back to her boss and said, I’d like for you to meet this couple. And so we met with him for a couple of days and then he basically said, I’d like for you to go beyond Colorado. And so, you know, kind of the rest of the story there is we flew back home after a couple of days. So this was like January 9th of 2015 and,

come home, it’s late at night, and Julie, who’s been really the primary leader of Adopt Colorado Kids, feels like this call to go beyond Colorado is a call for me to lead. So she says, are you gonna do this? Are you going to help lead this beyond Colorado? And I said, no. And she goes, why not? And she said, and I said,

because getting kids and families is your thing. It’s not my thing. So I slept on the couch that night. Surprise, surprise. And woke up to a text the next day. It said, he, from someone who had had adopted a couple of kids. And this text said, Brian, I had a dream about you last night. I dreamt that you had died and.

Travis (20:44.081)

Brian Mavis (21:05.134)
We went to your funeral and tried to get in, but had trouble getting in because it was so full of children you had gotten families for. I was again, I was like, that was another, crap moment. I go, no, here we go. God’s on my tail. And so it took a few more months for me to get it. You know, that text wasn’t enough. And another thing happened that was even more weird than that, that.

Again, it was like, And so, but it wasn’t until a few months later where just in a simple conversation I was having with my friend that I realized that this was the right thing to do. And so that’s essentially started, you know, it’s hard to know when your thing starts, but we kind of call our birthday May 1st of 2015.

Courtney (22:00.823)
Love it.

Brian Mavis (22:03.054)
So, and then fun fact is, so I’ve been talking about my wife, my wife is Julie Mavis and she helped start all this, but she now leads another non -profit that was a program that we started while we were doing this. And it was that non -profit is called Dream Makers, but Dream Makers used to be a program of AKB. And it was inspired because we had video to a boy named DeAndre who was 17 and a half. That’s by the time we got to a chance to recruit for him.

Travis (22:03.505)

Brian Mavis (22:32.558)
But he aged out at 18. And so we were trying to find out how he was doing and where he was. And within like weeks of him aging out, we reached out and Child Welfare lost track of him, said he’s homeless somewhere. And so Dreammakers was this idea of let’s let these kids know that, you know, even though they don’t have a family, we haven’t given up on them. And so as to help them kind of with their next steps with a dream.

of that’s typically either educational or vocational. And so, and then I also have a, one of my daughters, L is kind of famous on in this space online is her name’s L, Ellie Flowers. And she’s so my fun fact is I’m an adopt, I’m in a, a grandpa, pawpaw to three of my grand grandsons are adopted from foster care. And so.

Travis (23:11.698)
Hehehehe… Hehehe…

Brian Mavis (23:29.742)
Love them very much.

Travis (23:29.874)
Wow. Is that’s incredible too with Ellie. Is Ellie going to be too bit for this podcast? Like would, do we have to talk to her agent or what? I mean, do you, do you.

Brian Mavis (23:37.134)
Would she come on? You know, I forgot connections, so we’ll see, we’ll see. Yeah. So yeah, I’m her dad. So, yeah.

Courtney (23:41.783)
I’m like…

Travis (23:49.779)
And Dreammakers also had a national recognition back a few years back, didn’t it in DC with vice president? Yeah.

Brian Mavis (23:57.358)
Yeah, yeah, it won an award for just being an excellent thing, excellent nonprofit. So yeah, so I’m married to and father to incredible women.

Courtney (24:14.743)
Travis, how’d you come on board with AKB?

Travis (24:20.211)
Well, it was, that’s a good question. And we got to hear your part of coming on too. So, well, so I was actually researching a, I’ll make this really quick. I was researching it for a grant for South Carolina at the time to launch a foster care, huge program, the Children’s Home, like a whole program of foster parents and the array of support and all of that stuff. So it was a big, huge grant, it was like $600 ,000 grant.

And in the process of that, I was actually licensed, you know, in the licensing process for our kids to then be adopted. And in their story, mom had relinquished rights. I like, I don’t know, like 14 months ago, like it literally took 14 months to get them in our home. And that’s after like rights were given up. So I was seeing this big disconnect in South Carolina at the time was in our federal lawsuit, which I was aware of in this research.

but my own experience also in the process of researching foster care was it doesn’t feel like anyone, there’s no urgency for me, for the process. How is this taking this long? And I felt like, look, if I actually know and love these boys and we know who they are and we can see them coming, how in the world are you gonna recruit families that are fully fresh in this game? They have no idea who they may be fostering, adopting, and it’s…

Paperworks getting lost left and right there, you know, it’s taking so long. How are they even going to get to, you know, the spots even BFOSS or adopted parents? Well, that led me to, we got to speak at the child welfare, head of child welfare is kind of a meeting she had. And one of the nonprofits there actually worked in Colorado with Brian, Tricia Richardson from Thrive. And she heard me talk in my experience as a parent.

And he goes, there’s a guy and an organization I have to have you meet. And I didn’t know her and she’s like, you’ve got to come to Charleston and meet this guy. And so I’m like, okay, well God’s been doing, you know, I just have to listen. So I go, I go to that thing and there’s Brian and I hear about America’s Kids. It was on like anything else I’ve ever heard. And it was like, my gosh, this is such a cool organization and what their vision is. And so anyway, and then hooked in with the grant writing from there. So.

Travis (26:45.715)
Yeah. And what about you then in Colorado and all of that, like getting engaged?

Courtney (26:52.471)
Yeah, it kind of goes goes to our story of moving to Colorado. So we moved to Colorado and our kids talked us into being licensed again. So we started looking into it. And in the process, I just realized again how overwhelming it is to get licensed. And there’s so many options and I had already used AKB’s information. I’d been using their, their stats in a ministry. My husband and I ran in North Dakota. and then we moved to Colorado. It was like, okay, now we need to start again. and so I started looking into things and I found Colorado kids belong.

And I just reached out and said, hey, I’d love some more information on how do I even get started in fostering here? And can I volunteer with you guys? And so I met Tracy Rudd, who’s my supervisor, and just kind of started a relationship with her. And not even a month later, she messaged me and said, hey, we have a job opening. Would you like to apply for a foster care recruiter? And I thought, I am not looking for a job. I am a full -time mom, homeschooling mom, have kids, and I’m adding more kids now. There’s no way.

Brian Mavis (27:49.55)
Mm -hmm.

Courtney (27:50.167)
But again, we met and she told me like what the job would be doing and recruiting foster homes is a heartbeat of mine and she sold me. And so I quickly came on board and have kind of slowly up my hours kind of every every six months or so my hours seem to go up a little bit.

Brian Mavis (28:05.23)
Every time a kid leaves your home, we add more hours. So you guys tell me, so we’ve given a bit of the origin stories and histories. So let’s, let’s, leap to the present time and, what, what’s happening right now in this space and in this place that,

Courtney (28:08.759)

Travis (28:10.515)
interesting how that works, you know, I don’t know how it’s.

Courtney (28:11.351)

Brian Mavis (28:31.982)
or even looking ahead a little bit that you’re excited about. Courtney, we’ll continue with you.

Courtney (28:39.063)
Yeah, so just talking about these foster friendly communities and what that looks like in the community. We just moved to a new community a year ago in Colorado and so we’re launching here in Durango, Colorado, a new foster friendly initiative and it’s just been inspiring already. People want to say yes. People everybody I meet with. They just think the vision behind it. The vision behind AKB’s foster friendly movement. It’s yes, it’s a easy yes to get, but it’s also overwhelming.

Brian Mavis (28:43.534)
Mm -hmm.

Courtney (29:07.255)
I met with a mayor of Durango last week and she looked at me and I was telling her, you know, her answer was yes right away from the get go. Again, the answer was easy, but then she said to me, so you’ve been doing this for 15 years. Is that like one kid in your house in 15 years? I mean, she truly has no clue, you know, no clue. And I was like, what? People don’t have a clue about foster care. So I’m just, yeah, I think when you work in this realm, you kind of get engulfed in it and you don’t realize how much other people.

Brian Mavis (29:15.246)
Mm -hmm.

Brian Mavis (29:23.95)
No, I, yeah.

Courtney (29:36.727)
don’t have a clue of those kids, of the kids waiting, of the kids sleeping in hotel rooms, the kids aging out of care, and really what we can do as communities. It’s inspiring and it just makes me get up and want to keep doing this every day.

Travis (29:50.483)
Hmm. Yeah.

Brian Mavis (29:52.878)
Well, I think I’m going to take that as a segue into talking a little bit more about foster friendly so that our listeners understand what that’s all about. And again, a little bit of its origin of why we have it. So for me, you know, I talked about this change your weights challenge in in Boulder County, which we accomplished in one year. We had increased recruitment by 91 percent over one year and had more than enough families for for a moment.

But then a couple of years later, the problem came back again. And so we realized, okay, this is hard and this isn’t just a recruitment challenge, it’s retention challenge. And so how can we help these families? So we didn’t have the answer yet. And there’s all sorts of good organizations doing things, but we were trying to think of something that was just more holistic and that would actually change the environment of foster care.

Travis (30:44.531)
Mm -hmm.

Brian Mavis (30:50.574)
So, but it was kind of another question that helped us start cracking the code. So we like working in difference and all that likes the government sector, which is child welfare, but it’s also the political elected offices. We like working in the faith community. And we also were wanting to work in the business community. The business community is the.

largest community in the United States as far as these three major spheres go. And it’s also the one that’s the least, least involved, least activated. And they don’t think about foster care. just say like you guys, you know, as you were just illustrating from the mayor’s office is when the business community thinks about social issues, three issues typically come into mind, maybe a fourth.

Travis (31:32.659)
Mm -hmm.

Brian Mavis (31:46.862)
And those are homelessness, mental health, and addiction. And then for the fourth it might be like hunger. I mean, if you’re doing a man on the street interviewing business managers, business owners, foster care rarely ever would ever come up. But it’s those kids who are in foster care who age out disconnected to a family.

Travis (31:56.691)

Brian Mavis (32:14.382)
are leading pipeline to those at social wounds plus another five or six, like suicidality and homelessness and I mentioned homelessness, but incarceration, teen pregnancy, losing your own child to foster care, those kinds of things. So we thought, okay, this is an upstream issue that business people would be interested in getting involved in because…

Travis (32:20.243)

Brian Mavis (32:42.222)
it does connect to these other social wounds. But the other problem that businesses have is they feel like in order to make a difference, I’ve got to shut down my business for a day and go volunteer to nonprofit. And we thought, what if the business could be part of the solution or a vocation they chose is a part of the solution. So whether it was, hey, you work at a restaurant and now you could provide a discount to foster families or you run a dance studio.

And there’s a family who had two kids in the morning and by evening they have four because two came in from foster care and your kids are going to a dance studio or a martial arts studio. What are these kids in foster care supposed to do? Sit in a parking lot? So it was those kinds of things of like, okay, and it’d be all kinds of businesses, hundreds of different kinds of businesses, whether it was food or entertainment or services like.

It had to do with your automobile or, and then what about the city that had zoos and parks and things like that, that were available, but costs money. So we created Foster Friendly to say, let’s have businesses treat families honorably, like they might with military families and other first responders. And so that it’s more than just like a group on.

idea of a discount code, but it was a true like, hey, we are grateful for what you’re doing. We want you to know that you are being seen and supported and we want to make sure that your kids feel like they’re not second class and that your family can thrive. And so we did that and created an app to support it. And now there’s like, I mean, we have.

Gosh, I think 6 ,000 businesses that are foster friendly, something. No, no, no, that’s not right. a few, a few thousand, I think. and, the, and it’s, but it’s growing like crazy. We were, we’re not even hardly trying and it’s being added to. And then, but along the way we, we had already been working with churches and we thought.

Travis (34:36.916)

Brian Mavis (35:02.062)
Hey, this actually could be a solution here also for the church. Not that they would give discounts or anything like there’s nothing like that, but we would maybe go to churches and say, here’s 25 different things you could try with helping foster families. Well, one of two things would happen. They would either be overwhelmed by the choices and do nothing. Or a lot of times they would pick a choice that wasn’t that helpful, really didn’t move the needle is transactional and redundant.

that kind of thing. So we thought, what would a foster friendly faith community look like, a church? And we said, let’s pick the three most important things. And so, you know, after years of working with churches and a dedicated and informed, personally involved staff, we narrowed it down to one. One thing was that the children, youth workers were

Trauma trained at least at least to the where they had awareness They had lenses to recognize trauma when they saw it the second thing was that the church had an ongoing ministry supporting foster and foster and adoptive families and We have resources like we did for churches to do kids night out or things like that But we were also saying you don’t have to use our stuff you can there’s a lot of other Nonprofits and ministries that do things that and you can use their things

Same with the trauma stuff. We have free trauma resources, but you can use somebody else’s stuff. It was very open source, open handed. And then the third thing was, is that your church would teach on it once a year in a meaningful and responsible way. And so we kind of left that to be ambiguous so the church could figure out how they wanted to do that. So now we had foster friendly businesses, we had foster friendly churches.

And then we said, these are there’s these other nonprofits and they’re wanting to get on our app so that they can be more easily found and discovered. So we have these resources for foster families that don’t even know it exists. But now if it’s on an app, it’s all at their fingertips. And we’re like, we’re glad to do that. So we are said, let’s make sure that other these other nonprofits know about it. And then lastly was the city itself. Could we have.

Travis (37:09.876)

Brian Mavis (37:25.454)
public services, whether, you know, maybe it’s a rec center, you know, different gardens and zoos and things like that. Could they also be a part of it? And can we have the mayor stamp of approval? So that’s eventually where we became foster friendly communities. And so the question we’re wrestling with is what does an ideal community look like that is really supporting these families for the ultimate benefit of the children?

And so we’re now in several states and several cities and there are some official foster friendly places and there are key metrics. We want 10 % of retail businesses to be foster friendly, 5 % of churches to be foster friendly. We want no net losses of families. And so it’s those kinds of things. And then we also want it then to…

have its own innovation of like, will it take root enough that these families and the businesses and the churches and they’ll come up and discover things that are needed that can happen. And we’re already seeing some of that. We’re seeing like a foster family association being developed in a city and those kinds of things. So I’m really excited about the potential of this because I think it can.

Travis (38:45.396)

Brian Mavis (38:53.454)
have a, like I said, kind of almost an environmental change because not only are we elevating the groups that are already active in this space, we’re activating the inactive who are like, I didn’t even know about foster care. And so I’m pretty pumped about the potential here of that. And then of course, Courtney’s helping make that happen in the city that she lives in. And we’re looking for cities that.

would want us and right now there’s a there’s kind of a waiting list and so we’re trying to sort through where to go and how to support it because honestly the demand is outpacing our ability to to meet it.

Travis (39:39.317)
Well, what’s amazing too is just as you kind of zoom up from the whole thing, it’s like there’s a space foster care that for most people, it’s this invisible marginalized on the shadows kind of edge thing that’s not front and center. It’s through this movement being taken to the visible and not just visible. It’s like people are now actually finding new purpose, new energy, new, like even like I’ve talked to churches. I know Courtney, you’ve talked to churches and businesses, but like,

they’re actually finding like new missional purpose, new opportunities for like almost aliveness, like a spark of like life from this thing they didn’t even see before. I mean, that’s what’s amazing to me.

Brian Mavis (40:17.066)
Mm -hmm.

Brian Mavis (40:23.822)

Courtney (40:24.119)
And I’ll be honest at first I was a little leery because I was worried if we go give them this other thing to do, we’re not going to get the foster homes that we need. You know, here I’m a foster care recruiter, but I’m recruiting businesses and I want to recruit homes. But I really feel like families like Brian mentioned, like the retention is such an important key factor in not losing those great foster homes and how we can support them. And I do feel like the more it becomes a community thing, other people hear of it, they see of it.

Like I said, the mayor didn’t even know of the need of foster care in our own city. So the more people hear about it, I think it’s gonna be an easy tool also to recruit the homes that we need.

Brian Mavis (41:03.63)
Yeah, yeah, I think a lot of people that first step to be a foster family is just, it’s just too, it’s too big of a first step. I mean, that’s essentially our story. I mean, Julie, Julie was ready, but I wasn’t. So, so to be able to support in other ways, some of those will stay just as a, in that supportive role, but there’ll be a certain percentage will say, I want to open up not just my heart, but my home, to these kids. So let’s.

Courtney (41:31.063)
Mm -hmm.

Brian Mavis (41:33.518)
Let’s take this, okay. Hopefully what I explained was clear enough and you guys can sure bring more clarity to it, but let’s talk about this podcast and what role it can play in this foster. So we’ve called this podcast, Foster Friendly, and it in a sense plays a ancillary or amplifying maybe role to.

this foster friendly initiative, this program and app. Travis, you’re the one who’s had the most experience with podcasting, you and your wife do your own podcast. You were kind of the impetus around this foster friendly podcast. Tell a little bit more about this podcast itself and what you hope will come of it.

Travis (42:30.42)
Sure. Yeah. So, there’s a great line by a writer that says, if you can’t fix it, feature it. I really think that foster care in the space of what foster friendly is doing is this thing that it’s just too big. It’s too big for any one church, any nonprofit, you know, any family, obviously. So I think this platform and this podcast foster friendly is this space to feature,

Brian Mavis (42:40.782)

Travis (42:58.646)
incredible stories. I think what we want to have is storytelling is universal. There’s something about a story that just captivates you and brings you in, explodes your mind with imagination and possibility. And I really think that by bringing in people all the way from foster and adoptive families doing this on the front lines to businesses that have found their place to support foster families, to faith communities wrapping around and supporting them.

You know, to the government, to child welfare workers talking about ways that, you know, even the app has, has impacted them. I just talked to a child welfare worker in Georgia who’s, I mean, it’s the app is now part of their training and part of their, almost a selling point. Like, like there’s support here. I have a, like on my phone, a tangible way to demonstrate. Yeah, she, yeah, yeah. I just, just talked to her. So, and we’re going to,

Brian Mavis (43:47.406)
Really? I mean, I didn’t know that. That they were… Okay.

Travis (43:54.389)
kind of release a video about that. But yeah, that just shows that to what you’re saying, Brian, this movement is taking flight. And I really think that, like you, as you said, this podcast will be a platform to just tell good stories and kind of inspiration breeds inspiration and it crosses sectors and all kinds of stuff like that. So that’s kind of what, what I see about this as a storyteller. And do you guys want to add anything else or what you see or hope to see?

Courtney (44:22.711)
I also think Brian, you mentioned how we can’t be all over the place, right? I mean, it takes a lot of boots on the ground to get initiatives going, but even just being able to share things like this. I know if somebody shares a podcast with me, I always listen like, what are they sharing with me? But to be able to be that voice that other people can share and people can hear all around where we can’t be every single place. I just really think that it’s going to take off that way as well to share this need and share the voice of these kiddos that are.

in a sense voiceless in their needs and the foster family needs.

Brian Mavis (44:54.062)
Yeah, so I mean, ultimately we’re doing this for the benefit of the kids who are in care. Of course, that happens by supporting the families who are caring for them. And I think there’s so, so many people who one don’t know about it and two feel like, well, I can’t foster so there’s nothing I can do. And we’re trying to change that to say, no,

There is something and in fact, you might, your business or whatever you do most of the day could be part of that solution as well. So Travis, help us land this plane that were in our pilot episode, see what I did there. Thank you.

Travis (45:45.301)
Drive this bus to the finish line. I don’t know how.

Brian Mavis (45:51.182)
Yeah, where do we end this pilot episode today?

Travis (45:58.133)
yeah, just, I think that we’re gonna like, as I kind of said already, like we’re gonna have, we’re gonna have just an array of, I think just good storytelling and good topics around the space all the way from people that, you know, may know nothing about foster care. There’s just, this is a great way to learn. and then the people that know a lot, you know, when they’re in the trenches to go, wow, I didn’t know that there’s these kinds of supports or there’s this app or these things like that. So I would say really,

Be looking ahead to episodes that I think are gonna have a lot of inspiration and education to learn from. And so we’ll be posting weekly episodes coming up. Kind of looking at, yeah, so that you’ll be seeing those. I know Courtney, you wanna add anything about, we’ve got an exciting webinar series coming up as well. That’ll be the summer and fall.

Courtney (46:49.239)
Yeah, just super excited about those. Another way for people to learn, for people to grow wherever they’re at, take them to the next step, whether you’re already fostering and, or you’re considering to foster to adopt. those intro steps will have, a webinar series for really anybody and everybody to jump in and learn something and do something. You know, we really want to have action steps as well, whether that is fostering or it is how can you support homes? Like we’ve been talking about. So having those action steps to draw people.

Brian Mavis (47:17.87)
Thank you.

Courtney (47:18.007)
to do something to be that foster friendly community, whether you have an actual initiative in your area or anywhere you live, we can all do something.

Brian Mavis (47:28.878)
Well, I feel obligated to say what all podcast pilots seem to say, but is follow us. And so I’m very much into like action, like take your next step, next small step. And so to paraphrase Mother Teresa, do your next small step with great love. So follow us, tell, you might want to share this with some others.

And the way that we’re gonna be able to help kids is for a lot of us to do small things with great love. So thanks for joining us.

Travis (48:10.005)
Thank you.

Courtney (48:10.583)