Family Life Center
What: Center for foster care families, domestic violence victims
Where: 430 Prior St., Gainesville
Contact: 770-886-9505 or www.safft.org
Hours before scheduled visitations, foster parents Brian and Ashley Anderson often saw their foster kids feeling ill.
The Andersons took in two children out of a four-sibling group of kids in foster care, who continually complained of stomach pains and feeling stressed out before visits. A trip to the emergency room and multiple tests revealed nothing.
“It turns out in this extreme case that these children were being sexually abused on their supervised visitation,” Ashley Anderson said.
The experience as foster parents pushed the Andersons to create a safe space for children through their work with Supporting Adoption and Foster Families Together. Ashley Anderson is the executive director and Brian is the programs director of the organization.
“We do this in honor of those four kids and the others that have suffered and maybe we don’t know,” Ashley Anderson said.
The nonprofit organization hosted a pre-launch event Tuesday morning at Free Chapel in Gainesville to gather local stakeholders in the Hall County foster care and domestic violence fields. SAFFT will soon occupy a family life center at 430 Prior St. offering a space for safe visitation and support for families looking to rebuild. The location is part of the Community Service Center that also includes Meals on Wheels and the Senior Center.
In 2013, the organization had its grand opening of a 10,000-square-foot facility in Forsyth County.
Having seen the results, Forsyth County Juvenile Court Judge Russell Jackson said the organization’s goal is no “pie in the sky mission.”
“This has worked in Forsyth County, and it can work and will work in other places as well. I’ve seen it firsthand,” the judge said.
An average of 200 kids every month are in the foster care system from Hall County. As of September, only 20-25 of these Hall County kids stay in the area due in part to the lack of foster homes, according to the Division of Family and Children Services.
DFCS donated $40,000 to the family life center project.
The center, Brian Anderson said, will provide resources to foster parents, ranging from clothing and toys to a parents’ night out once a month.
“As a former foster parent, it is like an amazing blessing to be able to have one night once a month where you can drop your kids off — including your own kids — and just go sit in peace,” he said.
One big change compared to the Forsyth County facility, Ashley Anderson said, is the addition of two pods that will look like mini-houses. Because she wanted to have just one family in the space at a time, it recreates a home setting and allows families to “home in on life skills.”