Nonprofit of the Month: Haven Hills Foster Care Community

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8 mins read

Nonprofit organizations are oftentimes overlooked in the community due to a lack of promotional funds and advertising, amongst other reasons. To help spread awareness of these efforts being made, we feature a local nonprofit in each issue that we believe deserves a spotlight shined on the great work that they’ve done and continue to do within the community. 

Haven Hills Foster Care Community (HHFCC) is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit working to establish a neighborhood of foster homes and on-site services built on 80 acres of land, 10 miles north of Bismarck. It will provide the support, encouragement, and resources necessary to attract new and retain existing, experienced foster families, as well as bring stability to dramatically improve the quality of healing for children in foster care and their entire family unit.

I had the pleasure of connecting with Amber Bohl, Founder & Executive Director of Haven Hills Foster Care Community, to discuss the HH’s ambitious plans to make an impact on our region’s foster community, the funds they’re in search of, how you can help, and more.

Over six years ago, Amber became a foster parent and saw firsthand many of the struggles in foster care. She experienced and heard from fellow foster parents about their struggles, lack of support and communication from social workers, isolation, and burnout. She heard from social workers about their day-to-day chaos, the case overload, not being able to do their jobs of helping the families and children because their time was consumed with transportation, and the constant staff turnover. Lastly, Amber spoke with the children in foster care. She heard from them about their lack of consistency, stability, loss, family trauma, and identity issues.

“Foster youth often have unique challenges and need additional services that are difficult to navigate,” Bohl said. “Foster parents are often balancing children from multiple families in addition to their own family, marriage, jobs, and activities. It can be difficult to get the support they need since there is only a small group of people who understand the unique challenges of being a foster parent. In the last 15 years, the gap in fostering services between need and resources has grown and will continue to widen unless innovative resources are added.”

According to the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, research has proven that retaining foster parents is one of the most powerful ways to dramatically improve the quality of healing for kids in care. “This is due to the knowledge that can come from numerous years of experience and education as foster parents.”

The Project

An 80-acre development of approximately 12 homes (for foster families, biological families, and “grandparent” dwellings), a community building, a central office, and additional services to conduct supportive, safe, and nurturing environments for foster parents and their families. This will be the only initiative of this kind in the state of North Dakota; the second such facility in the United States.

HHFCC’s Goal On-Site Services

  • Occupational, Physical, & Speech Therapy
  • Mental Health Therapy
  • Educational Support & Tutoring
  • Multi-cultural Education
  • Meditation and Prayer Space
  • Art and Music Space
  • Bowling Alley
  • Movie Theater
  • Multi-Purpose Gymnasiums
  • Gardening Space
  • Mechanic Shop
  • Swimming Pool
  • Go Kart Track
  • Equestrian Therapy Stables
  • Rehabilitation Center
  • On-site Daycare
  • Outdoor Playground

HHFCC’s Structure & Operations

“Haven Hills will be a community of united foster families making it their mission to care for foster children until they can be reunited with their biological families or obtain permanency through adoption. There will be an extensive vetting process to become a foster family at Haven Hills. We require families to be licensed foster homes in good standing, willing to bring at least four foster youth placements into their homes, and be in good financial standing. If approved, housing would be provided at a minimal cost so that families can better support the youth in their care. The minimum residency term is one year, with the goal of multiple years.”

– Haven Hills Foster Care Community

The Costs

$3,000,000
Purchase & Prep of Land

$9,000,000
New Building Construction (Phase 1)

$6,000,000
New Building Construction & Expansion (Phase 2)

$1,000,000
Support Services & Projects (Phase 3)

$500,000

Pre-Opening & Project Management Costs

$500,000

First-Year Operational Costs

$3,000,000
Project Contingency (& Price Inflation)

Total Project Cost:
$23,000,000

Overworked social workers lead to frustrated foster parents, which causes a shortage of foster homes and adds to the social workers’ stress and inability to support foster parents. Amber knew that something needed to be done, and in February 2022, she started developing a vision for Haven Hills.

She and the HHFCC organization have been in constant communication with the North Dakota Department of Human Services (NDDHS) and their Human Service Zones in the area. According to Bohl, these organizations have been very supportive of Haven Hills’ mission. “We’re here to partner and fill a gap in services, so staying in communication with these state entities is vital to us.”

Another piece of HHFCC’s unique mission is to provide support to the children aging out of foster care (those 18 and older). Bohl wants them to be able to stay at Haven Hills, in a concept similar to a tiny home, allowing them to find independence while still having their community support system around them and cheering them on.

“Ultimately, children in foster care, foster parents, and social workers need a community to help them thrive and not just survive,” Bohl said. “A nurturing community will inspire and equip each child to break the cycle of trauma and brokenness and will show them what a healthy environment is supposed to be like. It takes an entire community of people to intentionally care for children in foster care.”

Did You Know?
According to HHFCC, for every 10 foster homes licensed, 9 are either lost or discontinued. Amber Bohl and HHFCC are on a mission to make a difference by improving that statistic.

"We're connected with ND Region VII Foster Parent Association, which pulls from 10 surrounding counties and provides training to licensed foster parents. They act as a support group of sorts for foster parents in the community. They host a monthly virtual and in-person training with a free meal and childcare for foster parents. Consider partnering with us to provide and serve a meal at one of these training sessions."

Seattle Seahawks Offensive Guard, Phil Haynes (#60), participated in My Cause My Cleats 2023, where players have the opportunity to pick a cause that is important to them and represent their chosen organization on custom-designed cleats. Haynes chose Haven Hills as his cause to support!

A Q&A with Amber Bohl | Founder & Executive Director of HHFCC

Q: How has HHFCC’s journey been since the beginning?

A: As expected, it has been a lot of work. It has been “slow,” but productive. Do we wish Haven Hills was an up-and-running community by now? Absolutely! But we have made a lot of great connections and are intentionally building community relationships so that a foster care community can be sustainable and have the support of the community. The support that we have received to date has been incredible!

Q: How has HHFCC’s mission changed?

A: We have strategically pivoted to not just have our main goal of building a foster care community to provide onsite services and amenities, but as we raise the funds and support to build the community, we are working on implementing a platform to be able to better rally the community to support the current needs (like clothing, furniture, diapers, school supplies, groceries, etc.) of foster families and struggling biological families that encounter obstacles that can easily be met by the community’s willingness to fill the need. This platform makes it easy for the community to see a need and fill it, and we will be helping fellow communities across North Dakota implement this platform as well.

By The Numbers

  • In North Dakota, there are approximately 1,500 children in foster care on any given day. 
  • In Burleigh County, there are an average of 200 children in foster care and only 80 licensed foster families.

Amber Bohl’s Five Things Readers May Not Know About HHFCC

  1. We are entirely volunteer-run!
  2. This project is an innovative concept and the only one of its kind in the state of North Dakota; one of only a few similar ideas across the country
  3. We have been receiving so much community support and commitment from companies wanting to donate services towards projects once we start building, but our biggest obstacle currently is raising the money to buy the land so we can start building.
  4. The majority of foster parents are licensed through the State of North Dakota or Nexus PATH. Both of these licensing agencies are statewide, so both foster parents and children in foster care from across the state of North Dakota can be served at HHFCC, even though it is based in Bismarck.
  5. HHFCC is a faith-based organization. If you look closely at their logo, the window is a cross.

Q: What sets you apart from other organizations in BismarckMandan, or other organizations with similar missions?

A: We don’t just want to provide a service in our community, we want to be the community. We want to go above and beyond to show hurting children how a community can rally around them and their biological families. We want these children and families to thrive, not just survive. This is not a Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. organization. Foster care is 24/7, and foster parents are often balancing children from multiple families in addition to their own family, marriage, jobs, and activities. Being connected in a close-knit community with neighbors who understand the peaks and valleys of foster care and are there to assist when situations arise will help end the isolation, diminish the struggles, and benefit the social workers, foster parents, and the children in foster care, as well as their entire family unit.

As we continue to raise the funds necessary to establish this community, we work to raise awareness about foster care in our state, and we find opportunities to recruit and retain foster parents and social workers. Our platform to fill needs will launch soon!

Q: What services will a donor’s money go to when contributing to HHFCC’s mission?

A: Donations will go towards:

  • Establishing the Haven Hills Foster Care Community of homes.
  • Covering our platform costs to connect the community with the tangible needs of foster parents, children in foster care, and their biological families.
  • Fulfilling some of these needs and supporting the retention of foster parents and social workers

Q: How can people donate to Haven Hills in other ways than money?

A: If you want to donate 80 or more acres of land, a house, a passenger van, or something else on our wish list—we won’t say no! We are always looking for people with specialized skill sets to advise and be part of the mission. Whether you are experienced in property management, project management, interior design, marketing, grant writing, baking, event coordinating, photography, networkers, and more—we need all hands on deck!

We also have various events throughout the year where volunteers are needed, and once our platform is launched, filling the posted needs would be such a blessing to the families we want to support.

If you have a business that sells goods or services that you think would benefit Haven Hills, foster parents, children in foster care or their biological families, or social workers, then let’s connect!

Mark Your Calendars!

Haven Hills will be hosting its first gala on November 2, 2024. They currently have sponsorships available, are looking for silent auction items, and will need enthusiastic volunteers for the event. Stay tuned to their social media for more updates!

Q: What other nonprofit organizations, local to the Bismarck-Mandan area, have shown support to Haven Hills?

A: The 31:8 Project has estimated that 60% of all child sex trafficking victims have histories in the child welfare system, and we can attest to their being children in foster care in North Dakota who have come out of trafficking situations.

The Dream Center provides free meals and groceries to anyone. A lot of the struggling biological families of our children in foster care can find community and help through the Dream Center. We are so thankful for how they assist families in our community with not just food, but health screenings, taxes, support groups, and more.

Haven Hills Foster Care Community stands as more than just a project for many foster families and children in need. The initiative showcases the strength of a passionate group coming together to uplift our community’s foster care system. Your support, whether through volunteering, donating, or spreading the word, makes a direct impact on the children right here in Bismarck-Mandan.

It ensures that every child and foster family receives the love, care, and stability that everyone deserves. Let’s step up, make a difference, and light up the lives of these children and families together.

"We're building our first HHFCC in Bismarck with the hope of building other communities across the state. Please pray for us, donate, share about Haven Hills with everyone, host a fundraiser for Haven Hills, invite us to come speak, and consider partnering with us to appreciate foster parents and social workers. We have big dreams!"