Foster care information meeting
When: 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 1
Where: First Baptist Church, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville
How much: Free
More info: Call First Baptist Church associate pastor Liz Coates at 770-534-7354
Foster Care Coalition
* Antioch United Methodist, 2922 Antioch Church Road, Gainesville, 770-536-7351
* Blackshear Place Baptist, 3428 Atlanta Highway, Flowery Branch, 770-534-7058
* First Baptist Church, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville, 770-534-7354
* Gainesville First United Methodist Church, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville, 770-536-2341
* Gospel City Church, meets at J.A. Walters YMCA, 2455 Howard Road, Gainesville, 770-561-0178
* Highlands United Methodist, 3678 Cleveland Highway, Gainesville, 770-535-0843
* Lakewood Baptist, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville, 770-532-6307
* McEver Road United Methodist, 3606 McEver Road, Oakwood, 770-532-3160
* New Hope United Methodist, 4815 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville, 770-406-8619
* Redwine United Methodist, 3285 Poplar Springs Road, Gainesville, 770-536-5164
Around October 2015, almost 200 children were removed from their homes in Hall County.
Nearly three-quarters of those had to move out of town — away from family, friends and school — because not enough families to care for them were here.
This amounts to a foster care crisis in Hall County and across the state as foster parents are desperately needed to house Georgia’s most fragile residents.
To address the concern, more than 10 Hall churches are forming a foster care coalition, providing support to the families who can open their homes to foster children.
“We hope to educate our congregations about the state of foster care in our area,” said Liz Coates, associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Gainesville. “But, hopefully, through that education, some people will be inspired to respond.”
Churches in the coalition will address foster care from the pulpit on Sunday, April 17, and April 24. The purpose is to educate the public and spread the word about an information session from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at First Baptist Church’s banquet hall.
The coalition is a partnership between 10 area churches and the United Methodist Children’s Home, said Wendy Cordova, associate pastor at Gainesville First United Methodist Church.
“What we’re trying to do is raise awareness about the crisis and then find ways for our church communities to respond to the need,” she said. “We’re doing that on several levels. On one level, we want to invite people in our church to become foster parents and be trained to be foster parents. But then there are all kinds of other levels where people can get involved.”
The children’s home, a safe haven that places children in secure foster homes, has a formula for churches and communities to provide the necessary support.
While foster parents are essential, respite care providers and volunteers can provide much needed support to the foster families.
“They would do things like mow the lawn, provide transportation and help provide supplies — like if they find out they are getting babies and they don’t have cribs,” Cordova said. “Those kinds of things we can do to provide other support to the families that are choosing to foster.”
The eventual goal is an established volunteer network that’s greater than one church’s congregation.
“We have a plan, a system that we’re offering to the churches that helps them to solicit volunteers and foster parents,” said Brett DeHart church relations director for the children’s home.
DeHart said some churches are more actively involved than others, but every bit of participation can make a difference.
The size of the church participating doesn’t matter, he said, so much as the size and involvement of the whole coalition.
“What we envision and hope is we’ll have foster parents and volunteers from multiple churches,” he said. “And there won’t be any walls for service. You may be a foster parent from the Baptist church who receives a meal from somebody at the Methodist church and gets your yard cut by somebody at a nondenominational church. We think that’s much more effective in getting the support where it’s needed.”
Coates said the children’s home is the organizing partner and will train the volunteers.
“All of this is leading up to our information session May 1 at First Baptist,” she said. “We’re having an orientation for support volunteers, potential foster families and anyone who wants to just learn more about what’s going on. Even if you just want to get educated, this is a great opportunity to come by and learn about it.”
Coates said the meeting will begin with some general information and then divide attendees into those interested in fostering, in providing respite care, or trained babysitters who can provide relief for foster parents, and in volunteering. The meeting is open to the public, not just members of participating congregations.
“We would love to see more churches become involved over time,” Coates said. “We want to cast the widest net possible. Our ultimate goal of course is to keep people aware that we have children in great need in our community.”
“We can have a small impact as individual churches, but I think as churches working together our impact will be much greater,” she said. “It’s really to help care for these children who find themselves in crisis and to do our best to provide loving environments for them and the families that are caring for them.”