The Forgotten Initiative helps individuals launch and lead a thriving foster care ministry that connects churches and agencies through awareness, encouragement and advocacy.
Jami Kaeb started The Forgotten Initiative in 2011 when she discovered a gap between the foster care community and DCFS agencies that need help, and the churches that want to step in and be connected in a tangible way. They now serve 47 communities in 26 states — impacting 12,000 children and 2,220 agency workers while helping 150 churches engage.
“God has blessed me immensely by building an incredible team around me at TFI,” Jami says. “For 10 years, I didn’t take a salary and it was really an intentional way to be generous. However, we also brought in an eighth child for a season in 2020, and I literally came to the absolute end of myself.”
“I never could do it all, but this was a point when I was actually dealing with continuous anxiety.”
“I was spending hours looking at emails for school. I had kids in six different schools at that time because of COVID. We were trying to figure out the best needs for everybody. Everything was stressful, everything felt hard, and I was not able to even give what I needed to my organization nor to my kids.”
Jami and her husband, along with the board at TFI, determined it was time for her to take on a salary to bring on some help.
“I had worked with BELAY before,” Jami says. “I had an assistant that helped at work for a season and that was a real win.”
“Anyone can do my emails, scheduling, meal planning, put groceries in the cart [online], make sure my kids get their doctors appointments, but only I can be with my kids and emotionally available.”
And then came BELAY Virtual Assistant Cassie Hardman.
“Cassie is such a gift and a friend,” Jami says. “Work has told me, and my team is like, ‘Since you started taking a salary, you’re there more, we see you more, you’re more invested.’
“I was thinking at first, ‘Is that just because now I’m making money,’ and [my husband] goes, ‘No, Jami, it’s because you’ve got Cassie. Now you have time and energy to be more invested.’
“I love BELAY’s process. BELAY does a really good job at helping me think through what I need and recognizing what I need even when I don’t know.”
“I wouldn’t have found Cassie elsewhere without [BELAY]. That’s a huge win for someone who’s a busy leader or a busy [parent] because it feels pretty overwhelming of ‘Where do I even start?’
“And the process of helping me find my match without me having to do a lot of work is super helpful.”
Some of the tasks that Cassie helps with include scheduling and keeping Jami’s kid’s schedules in sync with hers, email management, meal planning, setting up online grocery orders each week, and updating address lists for Christmas cards.
“Email is a big thing every single day a couple of times a day,” Jami adds. “I have a Cassie folder, a personal folder, and a TFI folder. Everything ‘school’ goes straight to the Cassie folder.”
“She’ll look at it, see what she needs to do, put anything on the calendar and if there’s action required, she’ll put it in my personal folder, and note that it’s personal or if action is required.”
“I give her access to everything. She has my credit card so if I want her to go purchase something on Amazon, she can go do it.”
“What is just constantly awesome to me is how happy [Cassie] is to help me,” Jami says. “I told her from the beginning I would probably struggle with feeling like I shouldn’t be asking her for these things, but every time she is just so happy to help and so quick to respond.”
Cassie and Jami work well together and credit their similar beliefs.
“That was important to me that we were on the same page faith-wise because I’m a person who trusts pretty easily, which has burnt me at times,” Jami laughs. “I’m kind of an open book and I wanted to have someone who I could share life with, not just, ‘Here’s a task!’ but ‘Can you help me think through this?’
“There are times when she’s just been a sounding board. I’m just like, ‘I need to just process this out loud if that’s OK with you and she loves that.’”
“I feel like we work really well together,” Cassie adds. “The times that she’s asked, ‘What can I pray for you?’ That’s really special to me to have that connection.”
“It’s definitely not transactional; it’s very relational,” Jami says. “Everything that I do that is good, [Cassie] is part of because I wouldn’t be able to do it without her.”
“I can’t even believe what [Cassie] and my other assistant have done for me. I was so overwhelmed and so in the weeds and could not see clearly, and now I’m so inspired I can hardly stand it!”
“To me, that’s how I view success. Am I freed up to be who I’m called to be as a mom, as a wife, as a person, as a boss, all of those things? And I am.”
“My biggest win is to see the load lifted off of Jami,” Cassie says. “I can tell a difference, too, from when we first started the engagement – how she was stressed and strung out on all areas – to where she has more time to relax and take care of herself, too.”
“That’s a win for me because I can see how that’s actually benefited and helped her. And when she says that her kids are fed and her family’s happy, that makes me happy, too.”
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