George and Mattie Smith

Georgia and Mattie Smith (left and right) were honored by the Division of Family and Children Services and Polk County’s Foster Parent Association during their February 2020 meeting. Susan Ollis (center), local director of DFCS, read a letter of appreciation from the state thanking the pair for their decades of service to local children in need.

There are over 900 children in state custody in Floyd and the five surrounding counties and just 167 foster homes available.

“These numbers demonstrate the great need for more safe and caring foster homes throughout our region,” said Griffin Newton Nolan, a home developer with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Region 3 DFCS is composed of Floyd, Paulding, Polk, Haralson, Douglas and Bartow counties.

Nolan said, in an open letter urging local residents to get involved, that the shortage of homes means many children end up placed far from their home counties. This makes it difficult for them to maintain family bonds while their parents work towards reunification, she noted.

All types of people make good foster parents, Nolan said, including single parents, married couples, unmarried cohabiting couples, or same-sex couples. They can live in apartments, mobile homes, or single-family homes.

“They should come from different cultural, religious, socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, as children who enter foster care also come from all walks of life,” she said.

And there’s a particular need in Region 3 for families who want to foster sibling groups, children and youth ages 8 and up, individuals with disabilities, and youth on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

“Too often it is challenging to find long-term homes for these children and youth, making their time in foster care more difficult,” Nolan said.

She told the story — disguised for privacy — of a fifth-grader named Destiny whose parents both lost their jobs, which intensified domestic violence between them. When she was removed for her safety, her teacher took on the role of her full time caregiver through the Georgia DFCS foster care program.

“Mrs. Johnson would become instrumental in the reunification of Destiny’s family,” Nolan wrote, adding that several of Johnson’s fellow teachers were inspired to become foster parents themselves.

“As we navigate this unprecedented time in history, we keep repeating the mantra, ‘we are in this together.’ No sentiment could hold truer to our local foster care crisis,” Nolan said, noting that there are a number of ways people can contribute to the solution.

“You could change the life of someone you’ve never met, find yourself in a position to help a neighbor, friend, or family member, or begin a ripple effect that trickles through your community,” she said. “And chances are, along the way, you might even meet your own Destiny.”

Visit FosterGeorgia.com for more information. Use the live chat function available Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to talk directly with someone from the DFCS foster care community who can answer questions or assist with applications. You may also call 877.210.KIDS to learn more.

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