According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, there are over 450,000 American children in foster care today. Currently, there isn’t enough money or people available to provide for them. While today’s youth are desperately searching to find their own identity, studies have shown us that adolescents without parental or family support can struggle fitting into society. Alcoholism, delinquency, substance abuse, and gang involvement can occur during these crucial years as a result. That is where social workers of today’s society find themselves trying to combat these unfortunate circumstances.

Zachary Crabtree, a 2010 Oklahoma Wesleyan University graduate, has dedicated his life to serving these underprivileged youth. For the past three years, Crabtree has served as a psychiatric treatment counselor at the AK Child & Family Center in Anchorage, Alaska.

“My desire to become a foster parent wasn’t there from the start,” Crabtree said. “It has kind of developed over the last few years in working with kids in a residential treatment setting.”

Through working closely with children in need, Crabtree said he felt increasingly led to take care of youth in a more dedicated role. Unsure about how he would make this dream a reality, he looked to the Lord to give him guidance.

“When I was asking the Lord about what he would have me do with this burden, I was reading Isaiah 1:17 which says, ‘Learn to do right, seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; please the case of widow.”

Crabtree knew he had to do whatever he could to fulfill this duty the Lord had put on his heart.

“I just felt like in reading that verse the Lord was saying, ‘This is my heart, this is your heart. What more do you need than that?'”

Since working in social services, Crabtree has been nominated for a handful of awards including Outstanding Direct Service Professional of the Year by the Alaska Alliance for Direct Service Careers, The Alaska Mental Health Trust for Direct Service Careers, The Alaska Mental Health Trust, and The Governor’s Council on Disabilities office. He was also given the Spirit Award for exemplifying the core values of AK Child & Family.

Although his time at Oklahoma Wesleyan may not have directly inspired him to pursue this calling of opening a foster home, he certainly believes it built the foundation and prepared him for the whirlwind.

“I’ve leaned heavily on theology classes and biblical studies when facing the allure and deception that the world can tend to send our way,” Crabtree said. “I encounter lots of different ways of thinking in my field and now I know how to approach them with confidence and discernment in what I believe.”

Often times in today’s news, foster homes are highlighted as hotbeds for disaster and mistreatment of the most vulnerable youth. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, last year approximately 3.9 million children were the subjects of at least one mistreatment report. Crabtree knew if he committed to saving up and building his own foster home that he must be all in and overcome these frightening statistics.

“You know, this is the question that I’ve been mulling over the entire time I’ve been considering taking this step. What could I do differently? Am I truly committed? Will I lose interest? Should I be married first? The answers to some of these questions came sooner than others; some didn’t and won’t come,” Crabtree said.

Even though these questions at one point bogged him down, he has never been more committed.

“I will not give up. What I’m going to bring to this is love, understanding, perseverance, patience, and self-control. I’m bringing Christ . . . My highest hope is that they turn to Jesus.”

Crabtree may have a tough road ahead of him, but he has the experience and background to put all the right training in place.

“I’m not going to take on more than I can handle,” he explained. “I’m prepared. “I’ve seen how damaged kids can come out of foster care and their own families. I’ve had to work with them at their most broken, and help them put themselves back together again.”