Currently, the number of children placed in the foster care system is substantially greater than the number of available foster homes for these children. In Coffee County, there are currently 233 children in care while there are only 15 approved foster homes. When a determination is made that a child cannot safely continue to live at home, the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) tries to secure a safe home for the child with family members to reduce the amount of stress put on the child. Ultimately if there is no family available or the agency cannot ensure the safety of the child with a family, they will be placed in a state approved foster home.
Putting the children in a home with a family they do not know can be stressful, but this stress is often amplified if the child cannot be placed in an approved foster home in their own community. DFCS works diligently to try and keep children in their own community in order for them to maintain their connections with school, friends, church, doctors, and other support systems to help the child feel as much normalcy as possible. This is not always possible because the number of children in care is often far greater than the number of approved foster homes in a community. If a foster home cannot be located in or near the child’s community, they will be sent to the next available home which could be hours away. The further a child is placed from their family, the harder it is for visits to occur and reunification to happen.
Two other struggles for the agency is keeping siblings together and finding homes willing to accept teenage children. Many siblings are often split up because there is not adequate space in one home for them. Siblings that cannot be placed together then experience another broken connection. When DFCS cannot locate a community foster home for teens, they are often placed in group homes, out of family settings. By opening your home and your heart, you can help these children achieve more timely permanency and greater outcomes in life by allowing them to stay in their community.
If being a full time foster parent is not for you there are various other ways that you can help a child in your community. These include becoming a respite parent. Respite parents provide short term care for children to assist other foster parents or on an emergency basis. These parents will often care for children over the weekend or during summer when the other foster parent is unable to provide care for a specific period of time. Becoming a volunteer is another way to support current foster parents and foster children; this can be done through mentoring, helping with childcare, becoming a birthday fairy, and providing community support to meet the child’s needs. If you or someone you know would like to consider being an advocate in a child’s life by becoming a foster parent, please contact the Division of Family and Children Services at: 877-210-KIDS or fostergeorgia.com.