Pages

Thursday, March 04, 2004

FBC Opelika member sees DHR job as way to serve God

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
March 4, 2004

A high-level public servant in Alabama infuses commitment to Christ into his life and work as he fulfills his responsibilities to protect Alabama’s children.

Page Walley, a member of First Baptist Church of Opelika, leads the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) as commissioner.

He promises a new day in the child welfare agency that oversees child support enforcement, child and adult protective services, food stamps, foster care and adoption.

The post was left vacant when Bill Fuller announced his resignation to become a career missionary.

Like Fuller, Walley brings a strong sense of faith, desiring to be a vessel used by God. “I will follow the example of Jesus Christ and go out and serve and draw people to Him,” he said.

Raised in LaGrange, Tenn., a small antebellum town of 160 citizens, Walley, the oldest of three siblings, said his childhood offered the perfect environment. His father’s hard work at his job in the cotton industry and his mother’s commitment to raising the family created a safe and loving Christian home. This influence would guide Walley throughout his life.

Upon graduating from high school, he attended Davidson College, Davidson, N.C., on a football scholarship, where he still holds fifth place in the top 10 for career rushing yards.

Although he was a stand-out athlete at Davidson, the pigskin did not determine his future as much as a gothic-style psychiatric hospital located in Bolivar, Tenn., just 22 miles from his hometown.

“I always was intrigued by the mental health field and the massive state hospital and wanted to pursue psychology,” he said.

Walley said he publicly confessed his salvation in his junior high school gymnasium during an evangelism meeting. “I admit though, during my college years I did not always remember the lessons learned in my Christian home,” he said.

His faith would find replenishment after he completed a master’s and doctorate in psychology at the University of Georgia. He then took a residency at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Coral Gables, Fla., and joined University Baptist Church, Coral Gables.

The love and influence of his new church home, as well as the leadership of Dan Yeary, now senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Ariz., offered a renewed faith. Yeary recruited him as the director of Christian counseling ministry at University Baptist, a position he held 1985–1987.

The staff position afforded him the opportunity to discover a gift for preaching after occasionally preaching in Yeary’s absence. “The church approached me about licensing,” Walley said. “Their policy was to reserve ordination for those who have seminary training. The church wanted to recognize a calling in my life, but I am not a full-time preacher.”

So Walley was licensed to the gospel ministry by University Baptist Church in 1986.

Walley said he does a lot of guest speaking in churches and Sunday School classes and is interested in supply preaching.

He met his future wife, Terry, a Montgomery native and Auburn graduate, at University Baptist in Coral Gables. With a strong foundation built on Christ, the Walley family — which includes children Blake, Jordan and Annelise — moved back to his hometown in 1987 so he could take the position of clinic director of Quinco Community Mental Health in nearby Bolivar, Tenn.

Amid his interaction with people in the community, he regained a grassroots feel for the needs of the people, enough so that he ran for public office. “People kept saying things about changing the state policy, and so I ran for office,” he said.

This led him to serve in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1990 to 2000, sponsoring the legislation that created the department of children’s services in 1996. He held membership on the calendar and rules committee, health and human resources committee, finance committee and the governor’s task force to study child care.

But he decided after 10 years in public service he wanted to focus on his family and the career he loved, so he served as a consultant for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. He next became the department’s commissioner. In March 2003 he moved to Alabama when Gov. Riley appointed him director of the department of children’s affairs.

Although Walley was the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s 1994 Karl F. Heiser Award for Advocacy and several other awards, he wants no glory for his achievements.

He said it is the everyday heroes like his parents, grandmother, minister, his wife, his in-laws and those in adversity he has counseled, who have influenced him.

Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist

Adoption offers Alabama Baptists the opportunity to care for orphans

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
March 4, 2004

Alabama’s adoption activity in 2004 could reap more rewards for the state thanks to the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003.

Signed into law in December by President Bush, the law allows states to receive extra incentive money based on the number of older children adopted each year.

The new law renews a 1997 law that provides $4,000 to the state per finalized adoption, regardless of the child’s age and $6,000 for each special needs child adopted. But it adds an additional $4,000 to the state for each child adopted who is 9 years old or older. This is because most people prefer to adopt younger children or infants.

According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), the state benefited from the 1997 law by receiving $519,821 for 838 adoptions from 1999 to 2002.

The incentive money will have no effect on the cost of adopting in Alabama, nor is it distributed directly to foster children, families or private child welfare agencies. The DHR receives 100 percent of the funds into its budget and the entire amount is allocated for the recruitment of foster parents and adoptive parents, their training and materials with which to train them.

While praising the previous adoptions in Alabama, newly appointed DHR Commissioner Page Walley appeals to Christians on behalf of the 200 children currently awaiting placement by the DHR Alabama office of adoption.

“As a Christian, I think we should hold true to our belief that involves taking care of orphans and widows‚” he said. “Putting our faith into action means taking care of the least of these.” Walley — a licensed counselor, former Tennessee legislator and licensed Southern Baptist minister — believes bringing a child into a home is an act of worship.

“It is a calling,” Walley said. “Taking care of children is our Christian duty and when we do [it], we are blessed.”

The number of finalized adoptions in Alabama has risen since 1999 when 152 children were adopted. Couples adopted 200 children in 2000, 237 in 2001 and 249 in 2002. The figures for 2003 were not finalized at press time.

Walley said the children who are available for adoption through the state DHR are there because parental rights have been terminated for various reasons.

Some children in foster care or awaiting adoption have special medical or emotional needs. These needs should be carefully considered by prospective parents, since adoption is a final commitment to a child.

“People need to have open hearts and need to realize that they come out of situations not of their own making,” Walley said. “We need to recognize that these children really are the least of these.”

Children categorized as having special medical or emotional needs include any child over the age of 8; any black child over the age of 2; a child with mental, physical or emotional difficulties; sibling groups of three or more and a child with a high risk background, such as one born to a cocaine-addicted mother.

“We need to support the (DHR) workers. Sometimes they may fail but more often they are the only safety net for these children.” One idea Walley has for churches and individuals to support DHR is to “spiritually” adopt children. “We need to commit to prayer for children and workers. Their battle is not just physical, but they need spiritual protection and they need to know they are loved,” he said.

Walley said a Web site set up by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services features photos and biographies of children awaiting adoption in Alabama and other states — www.adoptuskids.org.

“We need to bathe them in prayer. As a body of believers, we must pray,” he said.

To adopt a child an Alabama couple must be at least 19 years old, have been married for three or more years and undergo 30 classroom hours of training by DHR. Other requirements apply, including but not limited to criminal background checks.

A child lives with his or her adoptive parents for three months before the adoption process can be sanctioned by the courts, plus a social worker must give consent for the adoption to proceed. At this point the couple begins the legal process in probate court. Once this court process is complete, the adoption is finalized and the state may then receive funds from the Adoption Act of 2003.

A ministry opportunity can also be found through foster care. Eligibility requirements include the foster parent’s being at least 19 years old, the ability to provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the child with enough space for the child and his/her belongings and a home that conforms to Alabama minimum standards for foster family homes. Another requirement is that all members of the family be in good health, with all adults agreeing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.

Every county offers a local department of human resources that provides the 30-hour preparation course for foster care with foster families receiving guidance from an assigned social worker.

Foster parents receive a monthly payment for room and board, but are limited to a maximum of six children at one time.

Prospective foster parents can also contact the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH). With campuses for children and youth in Decatur and Mobile and group homes in Mobile, Dothan, Gardendale, Oxford and Alabaster, ABCH also licenses and trains foster families. Paul Miller, ABCH executive director, said they are always in need of Christian couples.

“This is a ministry opportunity and we are looking for the type of people who are willing to open their homes and invest in children‚” Miller said. The staff, which includes social workers and counselors, provides supportive services and works diligently to match families with children, he added.

To contact ABCH, call 205-982-1112, 1-888-720-8805 or visit the resources section of www.thealabamabaptist.org.


Copyright 2005© The Alabama Baptist. All Rights Reserved. Contact The Alabama Baptist