Foster care numbers in western Arkansas and throughout the state haven’t slowed down during the coronavirus outbreak — if anything, they’ve increased — and one nonprofit has responded.
The CALL in its first online training session trained 176 people from 93 families throughout Arkansas for foster and respite training. The training, which accommodated for social distancing, included 18 more families than its monthly average, according to a news release.
The CALL spokesperson Emily Treadaway said this kind of training is especially important in Crawford and Sebastian counties, which had a combined more than 600 foster children in March. These numbers have been exacerbated by public school closures throughout the state.
"We know that when kids are at home — and especially if they’re under stress — abuse can rise 20%," she said. "The types of abuse are often much worse, the longer the kids are at home and the stress the parents are under."
A faith-based nonprofit, The CALL has helped 2,400 families open their homes for foster care, respite or adoption through the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services. The CALL typically conducts in-person trainings and home inspections as a private license placement agency working with DCFS.
Treadaway said The CALL during a stretch of days in the outbreak received "four or five calls a day" for assistance. She also said case workers have called the nonprofit more than usual.
The parents in training have run into obstacles as well.
"We’ve experienced just a slowness of getting documentation from places like the courthouses or immunization records from the Department of Health or records from the doctor’s office because of COVID-19," said Michelle Vest, who completed her training on Sunday.
In response to this spike in activity, the nonprofit has reached out to adoptive and respite homes.
"We’re reaching out to them to foster as well, because we don’t have enough homes to put all the kids," she said.
Treadaway said the outbreak has overall made the foster care situation in the area more difficult than it already was. She said authorities are looking at ways to adapt how they do business to allow for more foster care placements.
But The CALL has also adapted — and Vest said she’s happy for it.
"I was grateful for (Zoom) so that we could move that process along," she said.
To learn more about The CALL or how to be a foster parent through the program, visit www.TheCALLinArkansas.org.