Fostering Hope for Children

From time to time in my columns, I plan to highlight organizations and individuals that are working to solve real problems and are making a difference in Arkansas. This week, I want to tell you about an organization that is working to help the children of our state.

Next month, May 2011, is National Foster Care Month. It's an important time to raise awareness of a cause that needs more attention and that is the care of children in need. Through many varied and difficult circumstances, thousands of children across the country and here in Arkansas do not have a family to consistently care for them. They may be living in an abusive situation; they may be the child of incarcerated parents; they may be orphans. The stories would break your heart.

There are more than 3,500 children in the Arkansas State Foster Care System at any given time. Over the course of a year, the total number of children in foster care in our state is between six and seven thousand, and yet there are only about nine hundred fifty foster families available.

The C.A.L.L. (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime) is a faith-based nonprofit organization that works closely with churches and with the Arkansas Department of Human Services to find families to take care of these children. They have developed an approach for helping families looking to foster or adopt children that has gained national attention.

This legislative session, the Arkansas Senate passed Senate Resolution 27 to "recognize and commend The C.A.L.L. in Arkansas for its achievements and services to the children of the State of Arkansas in the foster care system."

The C.A.L.L. has developed a grassroots-volunteer model of organization and, in just its first three years, has mobilized over 500 volunteers and established chapters in 20 counties around Arkansas. In that time, more than six hundred families have been recruited by The C.A.L.L. to serve as foster, adoptive, or respite care families. Their goal is to establish a presence in all 75 counties in the state.

The C.A.L.L. hosts monthly informational meetings for people who are interested in learning more about foster care and provides guidance and support at every step of the process to those who choose to follow through.

Adoption is also an option through the foster care system. In fact, within the Arkansas foster care system right now, there are over five hundred children waiting to be adopted. Since 2008, more than 50 children in Arkansas have found a "forever" family, having been adopted out of foster care. One hundred thirty additional homes recruited by The C.A.L.L. are now in the process of adopting through foster care.

Societies are judged on how they treat and provide for their children. They are among our most vulnerable citizens yet they are our future. It is a moral imperative that we do everything we can to provide a safe and stable environment for them to grow up in and be cared for. This is why foster care is so important.

Please take time to consider if this is something your family can do. This is something that can make a real difference in a child's life. It can also make a real difference in your life. Discuss it with your spouse and if you have children, talk to them. Consider the physical, emotional, and financial implications of foster care before you make a decision.

Talk to your pastor as well. Perhaps your church would like to get other families involved. If you agree with the late President Kennedy that "here on earth God's work must truly be our own", then I ask you what could be more representative of that than helping out a child in need?

If you would like more information about fostering a child or if you would like to volunteer to help others participate in this process, please visit The C.A.L.L. website at www.thecallinarkansas.org or contact the Arkansas Department of Human Services at www.fosterarkansas.org.