NEWPORT—Isaiah 1.17 reads, “Defend the cause of the fatherless.” That is exactly what Ronda Paulson aims to do with the Isaiah 117 House.
The Isaiah 117 House offers a safe space for children transitioning into foster care.
Paulson is the founder and director of the non-profit organization that has grown by leaps and bounds in less than a year’s time.
Her journey started in 2014 when she took a serious interest in becoming a foster parent.
She said the urge hit her in 1997, but the timing wasn’t right.
After seeing the statistics on the number of children in need in Carter County, she decided it was time to pursue her dream of becoming a foster parent.
“In 2014 I knew nothing about foster care or the Department of Children’s Services. Until my eyes were opened, I had no idea of the needs of the children right down the street from me,” Paulson said.
“Once you know something like that it becomes something that you can’t forget. I became aware of this whole world that was right around me that had children that were in desperate need of food, clothes, love and support.”
Paulson and her husband Corey went through the Path Training that was necessary to become foster parents.
During those classes she saw what children go through when they are removed from a home and taken to a DCS office, where often times they spend the night sleeping on a conference room floor.
“My heart broke for them. I kept seeing a six, seven or eight-year-old little girl that left the only home she has ever know,” Paulson said.
“If she was allowed to bring anything it was in a black trash bag, and now she’s sleeping on a conference room floor scared, confused, hungry and dirty. I heard God say, ‘These are my children…what are you going to do?’ I had no idea.”
In November of 2015 Paulson and her family were contacted about a child that needed a home.
The little boy named Isaiah went home with the Paulson’s that day.
Isaiah 1.17 became a special verse to the family after bringing little Isaiah home.
“You have to look at the context and who it’s intended for when it comes to a Bible verse,” Paulson said.
“In Isaiah 1.17 God says that he wants his people to do good, seek justice, help the oppressed and defend the cause of the fatherless. From 2015 to 2017 we walked this new journey called foster care.”
During that time the Paulson’s learned that caseworkers are overworked and underpaid. They also saw the need for more foster parents that are willing to say yes to a child in need.
In January of 2017 Paulson decided to start her non-profit organization and purchased the domain name Isaiah117House.com.
She went on to form a board made up of members of the community who could serve in the roles of CPA, minister, lawyer and DCS liaison. In February of 2017 the board met for the first time and kicked around the idea of purchasing a home to use for children transitioning into foster care.
“What if there was a house,” Paulson said. “What if there was a home that a child could go to on one of the most traumatic days of its life? What if this home had a fully stocked kitchen and bathroom, and a backyard to play in?
“Inadvertently children think they have done something wrong when they are removed from their home. They are innocent, they have done nothing. What if there was a home with a brand new message that says you are loved. You have done nothing wrong.”
In the late spring of that year the group raised $75,000 to use towards the purchase of a home.
Facebook became the group’s best friend and thousands of people showed support for Paulson’s mission.
T-shirts were made for the board members at that time with no intentions of marketing them. Orders came pouring in, and to date $40,000 has been made to help support the non-profits efforts.
In September of 2017 the group purchased the first Isaiah 117 House in Carter County.
Through donations of time and effort they were able to completely renovate the home for free. All new plumbing, electrical, flooring and windows were put into the home.
From a Google search in January of 2017 to the dream of a home, the doors opened on June 19, 2018. The home was opened completely debt free with one year’s operating budget and 37 volunteers ready to help the children of Carter County.
Over 100 children have come through the door of the Isaiah 117 House in less than a year.
“I had no idea of the need in my community until we opened our doors. I have seen what 30 to 45 minutes of true love and safety can do for a child on their worst day.
“We exist to reduce trauma for the child, support DCS and CPS, and ease the transition for future foster parents. It works and it works very well.”
Other counties are now following in the footsteps of Carter County as Paulson guides citizens through the process of opening an Isaiah 117 House.
Greene County is breaking ground on a new home on July 15, and Washington County will open its home on Sept. 15, 2019.
Plans are also being discussed to bring the Isaiah 117 House to Sullivan County.
More information about the non-profit can be found on their website at www.isaiah117house.com.