Last day for early vot­ing in Gen­eral Pri­mary is Fri­day

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Brandi Owczarz

vides an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple across the na­tion to fo­cus at­ten­tion on the year- round needs of Amer­i­can chil­dren and youth in foster care. The cam­paign raises aware­ness about foster care and en­cour­ages many more cit­i­zens to get in­volved in the lives of th­ese youth – whether as their foster par­ents, vol­un­teers, men­tors, em­ploy­ers or in other ways. Foster Care Month also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for ac­knowl­edg­ing the thou­sands of ded­i­cated foster fam­i­lies and other car­ing in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions who are al­ready sup­port­ing th­ese young peo­ple.

“I want to thank ev­ery­body for com­ing out,” said Re­source De­vel­op­ment Case Man­ager for Gor­don County Depart­ment of Fam­ily and Chil­dren Ser­vices Gar­rett Pierce. “This procla­ma­tion is to raise aware­ness to in­crease the need for more foster homes and the need our agency needs, specif­i­cally here in Gor­don County, where we have 91 chil­dren in foster

The last day to cast a bal­lot early for the Gen­eral Pri­mary & Non­par­ti­san Elec­tion is this Fri­day, May 20, and the Gor­don County Board of Elec­tions wants to re­mind vot­ers this will be the last time to vote be­fore the ac­tual pri­mary, which will be held next Tues­day, May 24.

“The Gor­don County Board of Elec­tions and Reg­is­tra­tion Of­fice would like to re­mind you that this is a Pri­mary Elec­tion and you will have to choose to re­ceive a demo­cratic, repub­li­can or a non­par­ti­san bal­lot,” said Shea Hicks, chair­per­son.

Early vot­ing be­gan on Mon­day, May 2 and as of press time, 874 vot­ers have cast their bal­lot in Gor­don County.

In this year’s elec­tion, for Gor­don County Com­mis­sioner District 1, lo­cal civic leader Bud Owens will face Sono­rav­ille High School teacher Michael Far­ley.

For Gor­don County Com­mis­sioner District 3, in­cum­bent Nor­ris Sex­ton will face Wes Roland.

For Gor­don County Com­mis­sioner District 5, in­cum­bent Kevin Cun­ning­ham will face Fair­mount res­i­dent Kathy Ryan.

Clerk of Su­pe­rior Court in­cum­bent Grant Wal­raven is run­ning un­op­posed.

For the of­fice of Coroner, in­cum­bent James Carver will face op­po­si­tion from Thomas Fu­neral Home fu­neral di­rec­tor Justin Thomas.

care and only 26 foster homes. We are hop­ing that by ex­po­sure through the me­dia and by word of mouth that we do get our need out to the com­mu­nity that we need more homes and more vol­un­teers to help the kids that we do have in Gor­don County. All of the sur­round­ing coun­ties will be do­ing sim­i­lar procla­ma­tion sign­ings in their com­mu­ni­ties.”

“I was a foster par­ent,” said Hood. “I have three adop­tive chil­dren ( from fos­ter­ing). Judge (Lane) Bear­den re­cently told me that 66 per­cent of our foster chil­dren are hav­ing to go out of county, so that is a con­cern. Hope­fully this will bring aware­ness and we can get more foster homes open and peo­ple will re­al­ize it is not as hard as it seems; and if they have a heart for it, they should try it.”

The procla­ma­tion stated in part that “The fam­i­lies serv­ing as the pri­mary source of love, iden­tity, self es­teem and sup­port is the very foun­da­tion of our com­mu­ni­ties and our state and in Gor­don County, there are 91 youth in foster care be­ing pro­vided with a safe, se­cure and sta­ble home along with com­pas­sion and nur­ture of a foster fam­ily. All young peo­ple in foster care need a mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion to a car­ing adult who be­comes a sup­port­ive and last­ing pres­ence in their life. Foster kinship and adop­tive fam­i­lies who open their homes and heart and sup­port chil­dren whose fam­i­lies are in cri­sis play a vi­tal role in help­ing chil­dren and fam­i­lies heal and re­con­nect thereby launch­ing young peo­ple into suc­cess­ful adult­hood.”

Hood pro­claimed May as Foster Care Aware­ness Month in Cal­houn- Gor­don County, and urged cit­i­zens to come for­ward and do some­thing pos­i­tive that will help change a life­time for chil­dren and youth in foster care.

Lo­cal foster par­ents Nikki and Terry Hamp­ton agree with the im­por­tance of bring­ing aware­ness to the need for foster homes.

“We are a fam­ily who lost a child to ill­ness,” said Nikki of her late son, Coul­ter Hamp­ton. “As a par­ent with­out one of my chil­dren, it broke my heart to know there were chil­dren with­out par­ents. It seemed like a per­fect fit for us! Both the chil­dren in care and our fam­ily ben­e­fit from be­ing to­gether.”

Fos­ter­ing has be­come a very im­por­tant part of the Hamp­ton’s life; ini­tially, they only wanted to be­come adop­tive par­ents. “We ini­tially set out to only be foster to adopt,” said Nikki. “But, as most foster par­ents will tell you, when you get a call that a child is in need it is very dif­fi­cult to say no. I would say over the years we have prob­a­bly cared for thirty chil­dren or so in vary­ing ca­pac­i­ties.”

While the Hamp­ton’s ad­mit to some chal­lenges in fos­ter­ing, the ben­e­fits out­weigh them. “I think the ini­tial chal­lenge of a foster par­ent is to con­nect and care for a child who has come from a less than per­fect home,” said Nikki. “They don’t al­ways know how to show love, care for oth­ers or them­selves. Fos­ter­ing has def­i­nitely taught me pa­tience and opened my eyes to the need in our area for more foster par­ents. I never re­al­ized how many chil­dren are in need.”

“My hus­band and I feel blessed to be a part of th­ese chil­dren’s lives for how­ever long they are with us,” con­tin­ued Nikki. “We feel chal­lenged with the task of al­low­ing th­ese young chil­dren to see what love is and when they leave us know that in some small way we have changed them, just as much as they changed us. We also feel com­pelled to share our story of fos­ter­ing with oth­ers when the op­por­tu­nity presents it­self. I think there are some neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of fos­ter­ing that don’t ex­ist any­more. It’s not al­ways easy, but hav­ing chil­dren never is. Chil­dren are like flow­ers, you can never have too many!”

Through­out the years, the Hamp­ton’s have tried to keep in touch with some of their fos­ters, but that’s not al­ways pos­si­ble; how­ever, the chil­dren they have helped hold a very spe­cial place in the fam­ily’s heart. “I would love to say I know ex­actly where all the chil­dren are that we have cared for, but we don’t al­ways get to be part of the whole story,” said Nikki. “Some­times we are only a short chap­ter in their lives. I am al­ways grate­ful to be in­cluded in any child’s life. Be­ing a par­ent is such an im­por­tant role. Par­ents come in many forms; some­times grand­par­ents, aunts and un­cles take care of you and teach you the way. We are grate­ful to be able to pro­vide a safe, sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment for as long as we can. We of­ten find our­selves around the ta­ble think­ing, “What would ____ have said about that? “or “Wouldn’t ____ have loved that movie.” I hope they re­mem­ber us the way we re­mem­ber them - with love.”

For any­one want­ing more in­for­ma­tion on be­com­ing a foster par­ent, an in­quiry line is avail­able for any­one in­ter­ested in fos­ter­ing or adopt­ing at 877210- KIDS ( 5437). You can also ob­tain more in­for­ma­tion by email­ing Pierce at Gar­rett. Pierce@ dhs. ga. gov, or call­ing 706- 624- 1252.

BRANDI OWCZARZ / Staff

Gar­rett Pierce with DFCS, Com­mis­sioner Becky Hood, Judge Lane Bear­den and oth­ers rec­og­nize Na­tional Foster Care Aware­ness Month.

BRANDI OWCZARZ / Staff

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