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Johnson High students plan event for children in foster care
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Arlette Gomez, left, and Giselle Tovar, both seniors at Johnson High School and members of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization, pose for a portrait in Gainesville, on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Tovar and Gomez organized the upcoming carnival event A Luau to Foster Joy for local foster children. - photo by David Barnes

When Arlette Gomez and Giselle Tovar were tasked with a project as part of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club at Johnson High School, they didn't just want to do something mundane.

They wanted to truly make a difference in their community.

“We were thinking about going to schools and helping children read,” said Gomez, a senior at Johnson. “But we wanted to do more than that, so we were thinking that not a lot of people pay attention to foster children.”

After doing research to better understand the foster care system, especially as it relates to Hall County, the pair of friends decided they would host an event to give foster children a place to have fun while their foster parents could take care of things they normally wouldn’t have time for.

The event, A Luau to Foster Joy, will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 20 at Johnson High School. There will be games, karaoke and even a bounce house.

“It’s a problem in this community and it tends to be overlooked,” said Tovar, who is also a senior at Johnson. “We tried to think of what we could do to bring them together and make them feel special.”

A Luau to Foster Joy

What: An event for children in foster care

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 20

Where: Johnson High School, 3305 Poplar Springs Road, Gainesville

More info: Register

Gomez and Tovar are both in an early childhood education class at Johnson. They’re passionate about helping children, and both want to go into professions where that’s their main purpose. Even though this event was planned for a project, Gomez said that’s not really what they’re concerned about.

She just wants to help children in foster care to feel important and let the community know more about the process of fostering.

One way Gomez and Tovar learned about the foster care system themselves was talking to a teacher at Johnson who happens to be a foster parent.

“They wanted to know different things about the foster care system in Hall County,” said Christy Britt, a literature teacher at Johnson. “They came up with the idea of duffel bags for foster kids when they are originally placed.”

The duffel bags will be something the children can call their own. Gomez said they sometimes have to use a trash bags to put their belongings in, and she didn’t like the idea of that.

For Gomez and Tovar, the goal of the event is simple. They want to provide a fun time for foster children, give foster parents a short break and educate the community.

“Foster kids need love,” Tovar said. “They go through so many tragedies, and it sucks because they feel like they have nobody or nobody wants them, and I don’t think anybody should have to go through that.”

Britt said things are getting better in Hall County when it comes to foster care. She’s had eight children come through her home in just over two years of being a foster parent and adopted two of them.

She’s hopeful for the potential of this event to bring awareness about the foster care system to the county because she sees a need for the recruitment of more families. There are about 270 children in foster care in Hall and about 60 foster homes, according to recent information from the Division of Family and Children Services and juvenile court.

“A lot of counties look toward Hall County as their model,” Britt said. “But I think there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement because there’s still kids in Hall County that are having to be placed outside of the county.”

If Gomez and Tovar are able to help one foster child have a better day at this event, or educate one person who decides to become a foster parent, they’ll consider it a successful event. And if that happens, they said an event like this could happen more often.

“We want to see how this goes,” Tovar said. “I feel like this little thing could make a huge impact, and if it does, we’re going to keep going and try to make something bigger out of this.”

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