The majority of people in the region don’t realize it, but there is a care crisis in our community. In Area 1 (Washington, Benton, Carolyn, and Madison Counties), there are 598 children in foster care, including 304 children in Washington County and 184 in Benton County. Still, there are only 200 foster homes in the four-county area. In response to this crisis, The Call works to recruit, train, and provide ongoing support for foster families here in Northwest Arkansas.
On a recent Facebook Live, Ann Book and Brandy Shioyama talked about why they are passionate about foster care, why they initially got involved with The Call, and what they wish people knew about foster care.
Ann has worked with the foster care system for a long time, and she serves as the Country Coordinator for The Call.
Brandy has been involved with The Call in Northwest Arkansas for a decade, and she has been on staff as the Program Coordinator for the last four years. She helps train prospective foster families, and she walks with them through the process of bringing a foster child into their home. Once there is a placement in their home, Brandy answers all the questions that come with acclimating to a new way of life, and she helps the family navigate the DHS system.
Brandy has a longstanding relationship with the foster system, as a couple of families informally fostered her as a teenager before being adopted. Brandy says that her life could have ended up much different. Statistically, she had a significant chance of growing up to live in poverty, struggle with addiction, and spend time in jail. Instead, foster families helped her overcome statistics, and she is passionate about helping future generations get the same opportunities she had.
Ann also had a pre-existing awareness of fostering. Her mother grew up in foster care and shared several stories of challenging experiences with her daughter. Ann’s mother was placed in a group home that had a negative impact on her life, and her stories led Ann to be passionate about the foster care system.
Both Ann and Brandy were drawn specifically to The Call because of their faith-based values. Brandy says that there is no better example of being the hands and feet of Jesus and living out your faith than fostering a child. They also both appreciate that The Call is not state or federally funded. Instead, it is supported by churches and individual donations, which allows them to integrate their Christian faith with their passion for foster care. While the organization does not receive federal or state funding, it does maintain a good relationship with the state of Arkansas, allowing them to make a more significant impact on the lives of children and families across the state.
It is important to Ann and Brandy that more people understand that children in the foster care system are just like other kids. Every child needs love, a bed, food, friends, and connection, amongst many other things, and foster children are no different. There is a myth that kids in foster care are dangerous or scary in some way, but this isn’t true! They are normal kids with pre-existing trauma that they need help working through.
For more information on The Call or to get involved, click here.