MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — Following a career as a nurse practitioner in the field of neurosurgery, a pivotal moment changed Tenille Rauls’ life, as well as the lives of dozens of children and families.
In 2011, Tenille and her husband settled in Mountain Home, where he practices as an orthopedist. At Christmastime that year, an encounter with a 5-year-old patient changed everything for the Rauls family.
The little girl came through the emergency room with injuries consistent with abuse. They reported her to the state, and the child was placed in temporary care.
“When she returned to see us in the clinic, her cast was dirty, she was hungry, and her hair wasn’t fixed,” Tenille recalled. “(I asked myself) ‘Why wasn’t she in a better environment than the one she left?'”
The inadequate intervention kicked Tenille into high gear. She made call after call to the Department of Human Services, and when that got her nowhere she showed up at the DHS office, determined to stay until she could speak to someone about the child’s case.
“That’s when I was told there’s not enough foster homes for these children,” she said. “It was just mind blowing. I don’t think I realized the magnitude of the need.”
Tenille and her husband immediately took the necessary steps to open their own home to foster children. Their first was newborn baby boy, who in three short weeks stole their heart.
Their hearts continued to be stolen by many the children that passed through their home, but Tenille knew more needed to be done.
Without a larger local network of foster families, social workers werere forced to send already vulnerable children in Baxter County out into unfamiliar surroundings.
“Their home life is being jerked out from underneath them,” Tenille explained. “But if they can keep the same teacher, same activities, it gives them a sense of safety.
She reached out to The CALL, a faith-based organization in Arkansas that works alongside DHS to make up for the lack of foster families by providing training, family support, and community awareness. The CALL makes it a mission to mobilize Christians in Arkansas, across denominations, to do something about children in foster care. At the time, Baxter County didn’t have its own chapter. It happened that at the same time Tenille felt the push to fill that hole, three other people were also exploring the same possibility. They worked together and made it happen.
Less than a year after that little girl came through the clinic, The CALL of Baxter County opened its doors. The number of foster families quadrupled in the county.
“We have been able to keep 75 children in Baxter County that would have been placed elsewhere in the state.”
“It’s not just about the amount of homes,” said Sandy LaBahn, a fellow foster parent and former DHS social worker. “It’s about the support. DHS is so overworked, and there was a need for that support that The CALL provides.”
Anyone you talk to will attribute the success of the local chapter to the tenacity of Tenille.
“She has just turned it around and made everyone aware, saying ‘listen, this is a need in our community. These kids need us.'”
The Mountain Home community has followed that lead and responded with generosity, filling The CALL’s closet with any materials a foster parent or biological parent could need to keep a child happy and healthy. The closet is filled with seasonal clothing, diapers, furniture, school supplies, and more.
Foster families can rely on The CALL for social gatherings, support groups, to something as simple as dinner. LaBahn received a foster child one night when both she and her daughter were sick. On a stressful night like that, a casserole is priceless.
“That way I can really focus on that child and making sure that child feels welcome, and I have dinner all ready. That was unheard of before The CALL and Tenille.”
Many in the community call Tenille a hero, which the humble mother of three is quick to disregard.
“The kids are my true heroes. They are resilient. They are the most important part of this whole thing. They are worth it. Every single child is worth it.”