The CALL re­sponds to cri­sis

Group ad­dresses need for foster homes in Arkansas

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - GRACE BROWN

Gar­land County has 132 chil­dren in foster care, yet has only 18 open foster homes as of July 11, ac­cord­ing to Diane Wright, county co­or­di­na­tor of The CALL, a faith­based, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion cen­tered around find­ing foster homes for chil­dren across Arkansas.

“A lot of times, peo­ple are just ab­so­lutely as­tounded by cur­rent num­bers. It blows them away that they didn’t know it was go­ing on in their com­mu­nity,” Wright said.

Arkansas is in a state of cri­sis, as far as the num­ber of chil­dren in

foster care and the num­ber of avail­able foster homes, ac­cord­ing to The CALL.

Its statis­tics show there are more than 5,000 chil­dren in foster care and fewer than 2,000 foster homes within the state of Arkansas.

The CALL is a Chris­tian-based or­ga­ni­za­tion that be­gan 10 years ago in Pu­laski County, later be­com­ing a statewide or­ga­ni­za­tion op­er­at­ing in 44 coun­ties across Arkansas.

To­day, it part­ners with churches through­out the state and the Arkansas Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­ily Ser­vices to find Chris­tian homes in the com­mu­nity for chil­dren in the foster care sys­tem.

The CALL will hold its quar­terly gen­eral meet­ing from 7-8 p.m. Tues­day in the Stu­dent Lounge of Lake Val­ley Com­mu­nity Church.

“Our mis­sion is to ed­u­cate, equip and en­cour­age the Chris­tian com­mu­nity to pro­vide a fu­ture and a hope for chil­dren in foster care in Arkansas,” Wright said.

The part­ner­ship with DCFS is meant to help the depart­ment with its al­ready high-traf­fic, stress­ful jobs. The CALL of­fers en­cour­age­ment and sup­port those work­ing at DCFS.

“We’re not there to fix any­thing, we’re not there to nec­es­sar­ily do their job or tell them how to do it, be­cause we’re not in any po­si­tion to do so. We’re there to sup­port them, be­cause we feel their jobs are very im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity and to the wel­fare (of chil­dren in foster care),” she said.

The CALL is cen­tered around Chris­tian core val­ues, so its mem­bers thought it would be best to team up with area churches to per­suade good, Chris­tian fam­i­lies to open their homes to foster chil­dren, or sup­port those that do.

Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, the even­tual goal is to op­er­ate in all 75 coun­ties in the state, en­sur­ing that a child who goes into the sys­tem will find a wel­com­ing foster home in their own com­mu­nity. It also states that fam­i­lies re­cruited by The CALL make up over half of all foster fam­i­lies in Arkansas.

“At the end of the day, chil­dren in foster care isn’t a state is­sue, it’s a church is­sue, ‘cause th­ese are God’s kids. We are called to take care of each other,” Wright said.

They work dili­gently to keep area churches and the com­mu­nity in­formed about the cur­rent need of chil­dren in foster care, as well as the needs of the fam­ily fos­ter­ing chil­dren.

They en­sure that churches have all the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion needed to sup­port foster and adop­tive fam­i­lies. Ac­cord­ing to Wright, some chil­dren com­ing into the sys­tem may have be­hav­ioral, men­tal or phys­i­cal is­sues that make it dif­fi­cult for them to tran­si­tion into foster care.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion set a goal last year to have seven fam­i­lies open their homes to foster chil­dren within a year, and raise

$12,000 by this year. The com­mu­nity’s will­ing­ness to sup­port them far sur­passed any ex­pec­ta­tions, and they have opened

15 homes in 15 months, as well as nearly dou­bled their goal for rais­ing funds.

Cur­rently, there are be­tween five to

10 fam­i­lies go­ing through the process of open­ing their homes to foster chil­dren. Wright said it isn’t about more fam­i­lies faster, but bet­ter fam­i­lies that will last longer.

Tues­day’s meet­ing is a gen­eral meet­ing open to the com­mu­nity. The or­ga­ni­za­tion plans to so­lid­ify the dates of up­com­ing events, and share re­cent progress with the com­mu­nity.

There will be an­other meet­ing on Sept. 19, open to those in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing and pos­si­bly be­com­ing foster fam­i­lies. It will start at 6 p.m. and go un­til 9 p.m. at Lake Val­ley Com­mu­nity Church.

Din­ner and child care will be pro­vided at the Septem­ber meet­ing, but Wright asks any in­ter­ested par­ties to reg­is­ter on­line prior to the meet­ing.

To find out more in­for­ma­tion, and reg­is­ter for the Septem­ber meet­ing, visit http://www.the­cal­l­i­narkansas.org/gar­land­hot-spring-events/.

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