BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
5,000. It may not seem like a big number, but numbers are all about perspective. 5,000 fans at a college football game would be awfully low, or 5,000 people in a town is a small community. However, when 5,000 describes the number of children in foster care in Arkansas, that is not just a number, but 5,000 individual lives in need of real care. The CALL of Polk County, a faith based nonprofit organization, is seeking to support those who care for these foster children, train men and women who want to help the helpless, and recruit those who want to be a part of meeting the needs of foster children in Polk County.
The CALL, an Arkansas organization that was founded in Pulaski County in 2007, with the purpose of recruiting, training and supporting foster families in Arkansas, has now created individual organizations in 44 counties, served 1,500 families, helped facilitate 800 adoptions, and changed the lives of 10,000 kids. The CALL works in close partnership with the Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS] to help facilitate the process for prospective foster and adoptive families throughout the entire certification process. “We are not DCFS or even an entity of DCFS, but we exist to help DCFS train and equip foster parents, and to do so in a timely manner that places kids in a safe environment,” explains Polk County CALL Coordinator Pat Flanigan.
While the CALL partners alongside DCFS to help prospective families walk through the process of becoming certified to foster or adopt, the organization seeks to accomplish this through the local church. “While our government does oversee organizations like DCFS, it is not the government’s job to end the foster care crisis, it is the local church’s. We believe in equipping and mobilizing the church to end the foster care crisis in our community,” says Polk County CALL Church Recruitment Coordinator Scott Bohlman. To put into perspective the effect that local churches could have on the foster care crisis, consider these statistics: If one family from each church in Arkansas became a foster family, the crisis would be over. Or, if one family out of every ten churches adopted a child from foster care, all these children would have a home.
The three primary ways that the CALL is seeking to curb the foster care crisis is through support, training, and recruiting. “We can provide support in numerous ways for foster families that are in the process. We can help them get all their paperwork done in order to become a foster parent by walking through the process with them. Normally, because of the tremendous workload that DCFS has, it may take them 18 months for prospective families to get everything done, but we can help get it done in 9 months,” explains Amanda Bohlman. Along with training families and helping them complete the process of becoming certified through DCFS, the CALL also shows support in tangible ways, including providing for material things for the foster families. “So many families that jump off into foster care need things for the kids like diapers, clothes, beds, and so much more. One of the things that we are excited about is that we are going to have a CALL Mall, a place where foster families can come and things for the kids for free that would cost so much somewhere else,” says Flanigan with a smile. The leadership team also noted that they want to help biological families as well, “If an obstacle preventing a foster child from returning to their biological family is a bed, then we want to provide them a bed,” says Amanda.
One of the most exciting challenges for the CALL in Polk County is that they are currently working on a building for their headquarters. “We have been blessed with an opportunity to use one of the vacant buildings at no charge owned by The Crossing Church. When the building is completed, we will house trainings, hosts visitations for families, operate the CALL office and people will be able to come and shop at the CALL Mall,” smiles Flanigan. While there are so many positive things happening within the Polk County CALL, there are still real needs that the organization is seeking to meet in order to end the foster care crisis here in Polk County.
Along with seeking corporate and church sponsors to help with the large task of supporting foster families in the area and volunteers, the CALL is also looking to plug churches into the mission of the organization. “As we have said, our goal is to mobilize churches and we really need the participation of churches in Polk County. If even just one family from every church in the county committed to foster care in some way, there would no longer be a crisis here. At one point nearly 80% of kids in foster care in the County were being sent somewhere else because there weren’t enough homes, it doesn’t have to be that way,” states Scott Bohlman humbly. As the Church Recruitment Coordinator Scott desires to establish relationships with local churches in order to work together towards the common goal of taking care of foster care children in Polk County.
The CALL exists and operates with James 1:27 in mind, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” The CALL certainly hopes to train and support those wanting to help, but more than anything, they want to mobilize the church to end this crisis, “I hope we wake up one day and this crisis is over…that is our goal, to love kids and families and end the crisis,” says Amanda Bohlman. For more information about the CALL or to get involved, contact Pat Flanigan at 479-234-6286 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out their facebook page at ‘The CALL in Polk County.’