Ron & I became Coordinators for The CALL in our county because of my experience as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) within the foster care system. In 2007, I was assigned three siblings who were never placed together for more than a few weeks because of a lack of foster homes. The three of them were in care for approximately 3 years and were moved a total of 39 times! I remember praying as soon as I became CASA for these children: “Lord, where are the churches? The churches have people that could be helping these children!”
Largely as a result of my CASA Director’s prayers, I felt the “call” to help bring The CALL to our county. The CALL in Arkansas County was launched in May 2010. The purpose of The CALL is to educate, equip, and encourage the church congregations of our county to provide more Christian foster homes. This ministry is conducted in partnership with our local Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
At any given time, Arkansas County has approximately 50 children in foster care, However, when The CALL was launched, we only had 2 active foster homes to care for them. Due to this shortage, our foster children are often placed several hours from their homes in other counties around the state. According to Arkansas Department of Human Services statistics, our county sees 125 children go in and out of foster care over the course of a year. There are also over 500 children in our state at the present time awaiting “forever” homes through adoption.
After 4 years of operation, The CALL in Arkansas County has opened 11 CALL foster or adoptive homes, we’ve seen 12 children adopted and have 10 more families in the training process now. The strategy is to take our video into the county churches with the message of the desperate need we have for more foster and adoptive homes. Those who are interested in helping with this ministry are then asked to attend an Informational Meeting to learn more about the process of becoming foster and adoptive parents or to become a volunteer.
After prospective foster and adoptive families are identified, The CALL Trainers provide the required 27 hours of training in one of our county churches. We currently have 12 churches represented by 25 volunteers. Volunteer CPR Trainers also provide the required 4 hours of CPR training to the foster families. Then, our volunteer Social Workers conduct a home study on each family. Finally, the new foster or adoptive family is approved by DCFS and we have a new foster or adoptive home to care for foster children in our county. All the training is provided for foster and adoptive families at no cost to them by The CALL volunteers.
The CALL Volunteers also conduct monthly Foster Support Meetings where we provide training as well as a meal and babysitting for our foster families. These meetings are helpful in providing foster parents with their needed 15 hours of continuing education training required annually by DCFS.