Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
In an effort to attempt to serve Macon County’s current need for foster child care, Discover Church is providing an informational orientation for anyone interested in learning what is involved in becoming a licensed foster caregiver or to acquire certification as a guardian ad litem. The session will be held Tuesday, June 7, at 6 p.m. at the church. According to Macon County DSS Adoption Social Worker Stacy Messer, “The need is great for licensed family foster homes.”
Approximately 20 families are currently licensed to provide foster care in Macon County through the Department of Social Services, and about 80 children are currently in homes and other facilities.
Messer explained that the low number of licensed foster families is likely due to the pandemic.
“I was not able to do a recruitment class in 2020. We usually license 8-10 families each year, so we are behind.”
She added, “It’s vitally important to kids and families in our county to have enough foster families. When we do not have places for children, they literally have to sleep at the [Macon County Social Services] office and we must oversee the children until we can find a foster home.”
The June 7 presentation at Discover Church will provide information on aspects of what it means to assist children in need.
“We try to maintain a positive connection, reunite with the birth family when appropriate, and to sometimes place children into adoptive homes,” said Messer. “Our primary goal for children is permanence so they don’t have to stay in foster care.”
She explained that besides long-term foster care, as well as adoption, interested parties can become licensed to offer what is called “respite care,” which is essentially short-term care to assist licensed foster families or until a child can be placed.
Also lacking in the region are guardians ad litem, which are volunteers to serve abused and neglected children by advocating for their best interests in court.
Julie Adams, a foster parent for six years with her husband, John, explained that anyone attending Discover Church’s Foster Care Orientation will learn from Messer about Foster Parent Training, which is a 10-week program of structured training for potential foster and adoptive parents, as well as from Jake Shamblin, guardian ad litem program supervisor for Macon and Graham counties, who offers steps to becoming certified as a foster and adoptive child advocate.
“There just aren’t enough foster care homes or guardians ad litem in Macon County,” said Adams. “We’re offering this to try to find the best fit for anyone who wants to get involved in helping children. It’s a chance to learn more. Even if someone takes the foster care class or attends the guardian ad litem instructional meetings, he or she is not locked into anything.”
Discover Church regularly informs its congregation about opportunities to serve foster children, and Adams pointed out that several people who attend the church are involved in various ways. “The bottom line is doing what is in the best interest of the child, and this area needs places for kids to go and voices for the children who are in the system,” said Adams.
Child care is provided during Discover’s Foster Care Orientation, located at Discover Church, 47 Macon Center Drive, in Franklin. Contact Julie Adams at 865-255-5648 or at www.discover.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/89/responses/new. More information about Macon County foster care services can be obtained by visiting https://maconnc.org/dss-family.html.