Conway couple called to serve foster children, families

By Dwain Hebda

Tony and Hanna Manning met in college and have spent the years since building an enviable life. Hanna taught elementary school and served as an assistant elementary principal before devoting herself full-time to the couple’s two boys. Tony completed medical school in Little Rock and his residency in Texas before the family returned home to Arkansas, where today he is a surgeon with Conway Regional Medical Center.

Today, the couple splits their time between the activities of their sons—Knox, 9, and Campbell, 11 — and their spiritual family at Summit Church.

Tony and Hanna Manning with sons Knox (left) and Campbell. Photo by Mike Kemp.

It’s a full and rewarding existence, unlike that of many children in Arkansas who await a family with whom to share such blessings of love, guidance and acceptance. The Mannings know this well, and that awareness helps explain why the couple has followed a call to become foster parents. 

“Where I did my surgery training, it had the highest per capita rate of—the fancy phrase for it is ‘nonaccidental trauma’—abuse,” Tony said. “I saw a lot of that and kids who needed those homes.”

“When I taught elementary school, those were mostly low-income schools, and, unfortunately, poverty and family brokenness go together,” Hanna said. “I really experienced what the foster care situation was, just how big of a need it was. I got firsthand knowledge, having to sometimes make the calls myself as a teacher and a mandated reporter.

“The more Tony and I grew in our relationship and what things were important to us as believers and followers of Jesus, we just started to learn more about the heart God has for orphans and families in crisis. That’s kind of our big ‘why.’ Jesus led the example and we’re just trying to be on his team.”

By 2022, the pull for the couple to become foster parents had become irresistible. They began their journey through Connected Foster Care, a private agency that helps interested couples navigate the required channels prior to becoming foster parents. Tony and Hanna completed 30 hours of training as well as multiple home visits to ensure they were in a position to provide a safe, stable environment for a foster placement.

“We had a caseworker and she came and talked to us and wanted to know a lot of our family history, a lot of our reasons why we wanted to do this, our education, our goals,” Hanna said. “She wanted to get to know us, partly so that she would know a good fit for our family as far as the placement. 

“She talked to us together and separately. She wanted to know our marriage was stable, she wanted to know our health; we had to get physicals and our kids had to get physicals. We had to do a floorplan of our home, a fire escape plan. There are a lot of steps to the process.”

The Mannings had a short-term placement, and then after the child was moved into a therapeutic home to attend to special physical needs, the couple sold their home and moved into a rental while a new house was being built. As such, they have not had a placement of their own lately, but that hasn’t kept them from contributing to foster kids in the community. They have volunteered as a respite family, tending to kids to give existing foster parents a break. While this activity gives the couple valuable exposure to foster children of different ages and circumstances, the Mannings harbor no illusions of the momentous responsibility they will have when they resume accepting placements.

“It’s hard to say you can be ‘prepared’ because I don’t think you can be totally prepared for any of it,” Hanna said. “I think our biggest thing is just to pray and go at it a day at a time and try to follow the Lord’s lead.”

Tony, 38, and Hanna, 37, both said it was gratifying to see how their boys processed the decision to follow this personal ministry.

“I think our boys were very quick to buy in and they were super excited,” Tony said. “We protected time with them to check-in. Certainly, the foster child’s going to have some adjustment but that goes for our kids too. Overall, they have been incredible about it, probably more mature than I would have been at their ages.”

As the couple awaits the completion of their home and the resumption of placements, they are quick to point out the many ways that people can help foster kids, like bringing a meal, calling, providing supplies, volunteering and mentoring through foster organizations.

Dwain Hebda
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