DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — May is Foster Care Awareness Month.
Unfortunately, many foster care organizations are now bracing for an influx of kids needing homes. As routines return to normal amid the pandemic, reports of child abuse are expected to surge.
“I miss giving them hugs, loving on them and just making sure they’re okay.” School counselor and social worker Stacey Wallace is trained to recognize when a child is in need. “When you see their faces, you know.”
The COVID-19 crisis has brought the in-person contact with her students to an end.
“It’s very difficult because the school is the lifeline usually for reporting any problems for children who are being abused or neglected,” said Wallace
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Educators, pediatricians and therapists are all required by the state to report any suspected child abuse or neglect within 24 hours. Their report triggers an investigation by the Georgia Division of Family and Child Services, and findings may lead them to place the child in the state’s care.
“Foster care is to keep the kids safe in a safe place with loving people while the parents work on whatever it is the judge says they need to work on.” Brett Hillesheim with Wellroot Family Services says there are 13,000 children in Georgia’s foster care system right now, but that number is expected to climb dramatically. “The experts in child welfare are predicting a surge because there will be all these cases that likely come to light when children are back in the public eye.”
Hillesheim is hopeful that Georgians will open their hearts and homes to children in need. “We’re going to need you. The children coming into foster care are not that different from your own children. They’re just children who have experienced trauma and need a safe place.”
Wallace, who is also a foster mom, is encouraging other families to help if they can. ”It’s hard, but I think God calls us to do hard things. There are many many blessings.”
If you’re interested in becoming a foster family, you can learn more about Wellroot’s programs and services here.
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