Foster parent Alecia King credits Bethany Christian Services with expanding her family in Hoschton. With assistance from the foster care and adoption service, King has fostered several children and
“Bethany has always been there to help,” says King. “Bethany does events for foster families, and even after you’ve become a foster, they provide you with training.”
As a special needs bus driver for Jackson County Schools for 18 years, King became aware of the area’s need for loving, stable families to serve children in difficult situations. Over the years, she has fostered numerous children, including those with special needs and, in February, she adopted 7-year-old Jasmine, a special needs student who rode her bus.
“My love for these kids is my inspiration to foster and adopt,” says King.
While her love for kids provided the inspiration, Bethany provided the ways and means.
Headquartered in Atlanta with a regional office in Bogart, Bethany’s services include adoption, foster care, pregnancy counseling and post adoption support to families who have adopted children. The organization’s grant from the Jackson EMC Foundation is being used to recruit and train new foster and foster-to-adopt families in Northeast Georgia.
“Our goal is to develop 40 additional approved foster families, so that all children coming into foster care in this area will be placed and cared for within their home community,” says Director of Donor Engagement Andi Swan, noting that the additional foster families will make it possible to host 200 to 225 more foster children at any given time.
“Our most critical need is for more trained foster families across the state,” says Swan. “The number of children coming into the custody of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) is only increasing, so the need for more families grows as well.”
Bindi Avrett is regional manager at Bethany’s office in Bogart, which works with DFACS to serve about 80 foster children in the Athens area.
“We are here to equip and support families with foster training and collaboration,” says Avrett, describing how all foster families take part in at least 24 hours of classroom training.
Bethany Christian Services started 75 years ago in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is now a global child placing agency. They have 120 U.S. locations and Georgia’s is the second largest.
Since opening in 2015, the Bogart office has opened 98 homes to foster care.
“Our biggest need is fosters to take teens, large sibling groups, and mentally and/or physically challenged children,” says Avrett. Foster families need these traits: a sense of humor, flexibility and the capacity to make a long-term commitment to children, she adds.
Alecia, Swan and Avrett appreciate assistance from the Jackson EMC Foundation which, in the long run, makes it easier for families to foster.
“All the grant money goes toward costs incurred with recruitment and training, so we don’t have to charge a fee to parents who are already opening their homes to children,” says Swan. “This enables us to say, ‘Hey, we just need your availability and your love.’”