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Foster agency renovating Gainesville site for social service needs
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Scott Torres, adds new outlet covers inside the new Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together facility Friday afternoon on Prior Street in Gainesville. The facility hopes to be able to serve 25 families.

A new Gainesville facility is opening in about two weeks for an organization that aims to protect children, rebuild families and empower caregivers.

Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together has plans to open a 4,300 square-foot building at 430 Prior Street in Gainesville, housing a Hall County location for the Forsyth County-based group. It will offer space for safe visitation for families looking to rebuild.

The location is part of the Community Service Center that also includes Meals on Wheels and the Senior Center.

Ashley Anderson, executive director of SAFFT, said in a given month Hall County has 200 children in the foster care system. The new center will serve as a family crisis center for those children in foster and adoptive care as well as domestic violence victims.

Services will include supervised visitation, supervised custody exchanges, foster and adoptive support, parenting classes, transportation, mentoring and critical family support services.

“Think of this as the main place that the children in foster care who are separated from their biological parents ... this is the place where they’ll get to spend their time together, so it’s all about safety, rebuilding, reunification and supporting caregivers,” Anderson explained.

The new center in Hall County features seven visitation rooms for that very purpose, some of which will be decorated to look like a residence.

Scott Torres, services coordinator with SAFFT, said the rooms help children and parents feel more comfortable at the facility.

“As soon as the parents and children see each other, they have games to play with them, they have toys, and it’s a comfortable environment for everyone,” Torres said.

Alison Toller, a juvenile court judge of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, said the ultimate goal is to “provide a local center where not only can we have supervised visitation … but also drug screens for parents and hand on hand coaching with parents, because the goal is not just to be a place to supervise visits while children are not in the parents’ custody, but to make the parents be in a better place where they can regain custody of their children.”

The nonprofit organization hosted a pre-launch event in November at Free Chapel in Gainesville to gather local stakeholders in the Hall County foster care and domestic violence fields.

In 2013, the organization had its grand opening of a 10,000-square-foot facility in Forsyth County.

Those instrumental in helping get the new facility up and running included Gainesville Flooring and Paint, JOMCO, We Clean, DFACS, Juvenile Court, PSSF and Free Chapel.

Anderson said the new facility does still have some needs, outlined in a “wish list” that can be viewed at www.safft.org/hall.

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