Inside the Heart of Options For Families and Youth

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

The Heart of Options for Families and YouthWhen my wife, Debbie, and I founded OFY in December of 1989, we just wanted an agency that would “pay the bills.”  Like many of you out there, we had a family to raise with all the assorted expenses that go along with it – the house, the car, the children’s education and recreational activities, etc.

As so often happens in life, when we make our plans, God ends up having other plans for us.  What began as a small “Ma and Pa” foster care agency gradually developed into an organization that employs about 30 people and provides more than just foster care services. OFY has provided adoption services for children/teens with special needs, Help Me Grow home visitation, service coordination for the early intervention system, behavioral health counseling and mental health assessments.

Our budget went from $50,000 to over $2,500,000 in less than 10 years.  It’s 23 years later and it’s a different kind of job now than when we first began.  Instead of taking care of our own family, we have added to our family.  All the children in the child welfare system that we have served (over 3,500), all the thousands of needy families in the Help Me Grow system, all those children and adults hurting from emotional issues, along with our staff members and their families are people that we consider part of our family now.

A critical piece of our story is who we do our work for.  When the first kernel of the idea began in my head over 24 years ago, I wanted to work for myself and my family.  It soon dawned on me, after praying in the stairwell of an office building, that I needed to do this work for God – to work so that He gets glorified, not me.  I realize that this may sound odd, strange, or too “religious” to many people, but it’s true.  I truly believe that the only reason we have grown as an organization and are here today is because God has blessed us and watches over us.  There were too many miracles that occurred along the way for me to believe any differently.

This is not to say that we don’t have our faults.  It also doesn’t mean that all our staff believes the same things that I do.  I can tell you, however, that I do this for God and that I make that clear to those who work for me.  They know I’m not perfect, and they have made a decision to be connected with us.

I can definitively say that our employees care about other people.  Some time ago I sent out a memo to them (as all bosses like to do on occasion).  On it was a verse from the New Testament, from the letter of Paul to the Philippians that said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  It’s something that we strive for – to be focused on others.

That is what is really at the heart of OFY.


Michael D. Rush, LISW-S
Executive Director
Options for Families and Youth
5131 West 140th St.
Brook Park, OH  44142
(216) 267-7070
(216) 267-7075 (Fax)

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