Lives dedicated to ministry lead Strattons to foster care, adoption

Frank and Whitney Stratton have loved their time spent working with children through Oneida Baptist Institute, a Christian boarding school in Southeast Kentucky. So it comes as no surprise that the couple is now fostering, and will soon adopt, four children with Sunrise’s help and guidance.

Frank and Whitney, both employed by Oneida, endured many unsuccessful and emotionally painful attempts to have biological children in years past. And it was when Whitney turned to God and asked Him if they should adopt that she immediately felt a sense of peace. But Frank had a slightly different thought – foster care – one that Whitney was initially hesitant about.

“Foster care was God’s plan for us,” said Frank. “I knew we were equipped to do this because of the work we’d done with the children at Oneida.”

The couple first tried the private adoption route in 2014, but mounting fees proved to be too costly. Then soon after in 2015, they reached out to Sunrise, an organization they were familiar with already through their work with sister organization Oneida.

In June 2015, three young siblings under the age of 10 came to the Strattons for a week of respite care, but then returned not long after to be fostered. And less than a year later, the siblings learned their younger sister was born, who came to Whitney and Frank two weeks after her birth. Each of the four children came with challenges, from being malnourished and withdrawn, to a lack of education.

The home the Strattons live in with their four foster children in Burning Springs, Ky., is provided by Sunrise. Through Sunrise, they are employing what’s called the Teaching-Family Model, an evidence-based model of care for troubled children and youth that’s been used successfully by hundreds of programs across the country. The model recognizes that children’s behavioralproblems stem from lack of interpersonal relationships and skills, and then focuses on treatment that helps the children build these relationships and gain important skills for social success.

“Sunrise chose this unique approach to its therapeutic foster care because the teaching model is characterized by clearly defined goals and integrated support systems,” said Kenny Williams, Sunrise’s vice president of community-based services, whose responsibilities include the agency’s foster care program. “This model utilizes the foster parents, essential members of Sunrise’s treatment team, to offer a safe, secure family environment where they can teach living skills and positive interpersonal interaction skills. The foster parents are also involved with the biological parents, teachers, Sunrise staff, and other support people in their network to help maintain progress.”

Occasional visits and phone calls with the birth parents have been challenging for the children, what Whitney calls “a cyclone of disappointments.” Whitney says she often reflects on the trauma the kids endured early in life and how much progress they’ve made through therapeutic care, a stable home and unconditional love.

“Being able to watch them grow and learn, and doing for them what hadn’t been provided before is amazing,” said Whitney. “My greatest joy is simply watching them read a book.”

The oldest child Rebecca* says she’s excited for every family member to have the same last name when their adoptions become final, which is expected to happen by end of year.

“We wouldn’t have done it any differently. They were always meant to be our kids,” said Frank.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about foster care or adoption, please contact Sunrise at (855)-33-ICARE or



*Child’s name has been changed to protect their identity.


Written by Melissa Bailey, Associate Director of Communications.

Jake Pelfrey