Von Pouncey arrived in Gainesville less than a year ago, but her impact on Hall County’s foster care families has already taken shape.
Pouncey, the chair of undergraduate business programs and an associate professor at Brenau University, launched her nonprofit, Von’s Village, in February to bring collaboration to an issue that has many players but whose connections are sometimes frayed.
Among the first priorities Pouncey has undertaken is coordinating and hosting training seminars for foster families.
In fact, dozens of such families packed into the Tower Heights community center in Gainesville on Saturday, June 8, for an intense, hours-long session that included education about how to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse; the availability of supportive services, from day care and music programs, for foster families; and insight on how the juvenile court system manages foster care cases.
Foster families must complete 15 hours of continuing education and training annually.
Pouncey spent time in a foster home as a child, and she emancipated from her mother at 16 years of age. She went on to earn a doctorate degree, became an educator and raised two children.
But foster care, and her own experience with it, has never been far from her mind.
“My soul couldn’t rest,” Pouncey said.
Three things drive the mission of Von’s Village: connecting foster families with resources, training and mentoring support; collaboration with local partners; and fundraising to support new initiatives and outreach.
Pouncey is a logistical wiz, and working as a liaison to bring nonprofit and state agency partners together to support foster families is almost second nature.
It’s also “God’s calling,” she said.
Saturday’s event included support from Family Promise, which serves homeless families and has a day care program available at the community center.
Jack Bentley, a missionary who works with the Gainesville Housing Authority to mentor local kids, said Saturday’s session was both an opportunity for training and an opportunity to network with other foster families to learn about what services are available.
“The more people you know, the more you’re able to find the resources that child needs so that they don’t just languish in the system,” Bentley said.
Bentley and his wife, Amy, who is an educator, began fostering in the last year, and expect to have another child placed with them soon.
The couple works with Wellroot, formerly known as the United Methodist Children’s Home, a private foster placement agency with a branch in Gainesville.
The couple had volunteered previously with the Court Appointed Special Advocate program.
“And through that process, we decided that our skills would be better used to giving children a home,” Bentley said.
Rebecca Davidson, who works on recruitment as part of her regional role with the Division of Family and Children Services, said neglect is the biggest trauma that foster care children experience, leaving them with almost feral characteristics at the age they are entering school.
Davidson said she consistently hears from foster families about their desire for more resources, more training and more connections to better serve the children in their care.
There are currently 48 DFCS foster homes in Hall County, and more than 350 foster children. There are additional homes that work with private child-placing agencies, like Wellroot, who contract with DFCS.
Davidson said these “base homes” are not designed to provide the kind of therapy many foster children require, which is why a nonprofit like Von’s Village is a critical link between the state and local partners.
“Von has been amazing,” Davidson said. “This is never the kind of thing where you can have too much” assistance.
To learn more about Gainesville’s newest nonprofit serving foster children and foster families, visit www.facebook.com/vonsvillage.