Dr. Joseph Davis Provides Hope for Foster Care Children
When Dr. Joseph Davis isn’t in the classroom teaching systematic theology, ethics, or apologetics, you can probably find him spending time with the boys at Anchor House Ministries in Auburndale, Florida. The group home provides temporary housing for troubled boys between the ages of 10 and 18.
In 2014, the ministry had been without an executive director for six months and was struggling when the board approached Davis to set a vision for the future. Feeling like this was a “divine appointment,” despite a full-time teaching load, Davis jumped in and gave the campus a facelift with new landscaping, furnishings, paint, and repairs. He also started raising much-needed funding to keep the organization afloat and, within one year, doubled the income of the organization.
“Eighty-six percent of the boys who come to Anchor House have been abused. These are young men who are angry, hurt, and confused as to why people would hurt them. It’s a wonderful opportunity to shine the light of Christ,” said Davis.
The group home serves boys who have either been removed from their homes or orphaned. Most of the boys enter the program with anger and bitterness, but they leave knowing Christ and truly loving the staff members who have poured into them.“We see a very practical example of God’s love overcoming evil,” Davis said.
Transitional Homes for Young Adults
Shortly after he came on board, Davis realized the need for a transitional program for young men who age out of the foster care system.“I remember asking one of the social workers, ‘What happens when the boys turn 18?’,” he said. “To my surprise, I learned that the boys are picked up on their 18th birthday and taken to a nearby homeless shelter.”
After witnessing that scenario happen to one of the residents, Davis set out on a campaign to create a transitional program for young men between the ages of 18 and 22. With help from a grant, Anchor House purchased its first transitional home in 2016 and staffed the home with house parents to mentor the boys into adulthood.
Five boys entered the first transitional home, and only one had a high school diploma or equivalent. At the end of the first year, all five earned high school diplomas or GEDs. At the end of the second year, all five had entered college.
Children in the foster care system often fall dramatically behind their peers academically because of frequent school moves, making them twice as likely as their peers to drop out of high school. The transitional home provides a stable environment for the young men to focus on completing their education and obtaining job skills in order to become self-sufficient.
“Nationwide, 50 percent of children who age out of foster care are in jail within two years,” said Davis. “We believe we are making a tremendous difference.”
Because of the immense success of the first transitional home, another home was donated. Anchor House opened its third transitional home in the spring of 2019, this time, for females leaving foster care.
After three years, 97 percent of the residents in both of the transitional homes have earned either a high school diploma or a GED, and 50 percent have gone on to attend college.
Bringing SEU to Anchor House
Over the years, Davis has hired a number of Southeastern alumni and students to work in direct care positions with the boys, as well as in an administrative capacity. Paul, ’09, and Sandy (Hoover), ’06, Agens oversee the transitional house for women. Noah White, ’19, and student Jeffrey Ashcraft each oversee one of the transitional homes for men. Danielle (Mailly) Stolk (MEd), ’14, works as the operations manager. Zach Weathers, ’17, is the behavior technician, and Nicole Hernandez-Cabrera, ’18, is the school liaison. Davis also provides opportunities for SEU students to intern or volunteer with the nonprofit.
“It has been a huge blessing to be able to serve alongside my students and make a lasting impact in the lives of young people,” said Davis. “Changing lives in the name of Christ is what the kingdom of God is all about.”