Over the past few years, the number of foster children seeking a safe place to live has increased dramatically. According to Bobby Cagle, The State Director of the Division of Family and Children’s Services, one reason for the escalation is the implementation of a 24-Hour Child Abuse Reporting Hotline. Shortly after the hotline was put in place in 2014, the state received 26,000 calls for potential abuse reports within a 30-day period. Around the same time frame, the number of foster homes available to take children flat-lined at 4,000 homes statewide.

Currently, there are 14,000 children living in state custody, which means that Georgia falls short of approximately 10,000 placement options for foster children. The reasons why children are in need of a temporary home vary; the parents might be incarcerated, deceased, or struggling with substance abuse. “Sometimes the child has been abused or neglected, or they are living in extreme poverty,” comments Becky Davenport, Bloom Executive Director.

The result of the shortage is apparent on local news reports which show foster teens living unsupervised in metro Atlanta hotel rooms. Bloom encounters heart-breaking situations related to the lack of available foster homes time and time again. “Bloom’s foster care team feels the burden of these numbers on a daily basis,” says Davenport, “Every month our agency receives an average of 150 referral calls that cannot be placed because of the lack of foster homes available.

WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE? As the number of foster children in our state continues to rise, so does the need for foster families.

“At Bloom, we strive to provide our foster children and families with the best possible resources and services,” says Pamella Talley-Coney, Bloom Foster Care Program Director. “Through our comprehensive program, private foster families are recruited and trained to care for children of all ages in their homes. We also provide foster families with dedicated support such as: 24-hour access to staff in the event of a crisis, annual foster care training, referral information, respite care, access to The Bloom Closet, and the opportunity to network with other foster parents.” “Bloom regularly offers classes and trainings to help us understand the needs of the children,” says Lanell Wilkins, a Bloom foster parent. “And when considering the placement of a new child, our Social Worker, Tina, is very transparent about the child’s background. I don’t feel pressured at all. She understands that the foster child needs to fit within the dynamic of our family.”

Last quarter, Bloom’s foster parent program was recognized as one of the top foster care agencies in Georgia. Bloom has also received the necessary license to begin caring for therapeutic and medically fragile foster children and pregnant and parenting teen girls. In the past nine months, the Bloom foster care team has trained and certified 19 foster families, creating a total of 35 available spaces for children. At Bloom, foster parents are considered heroes. Bloom’s team recognizes the work they do and the sacrifices they make. They celebrate each and every foster parent, and encourage those who are on the fence to learn more about becoming a foster parent with Bloom. For more information, please contact Shannon Hoy at 770-460-6652 x 303.

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