GREENE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Greene County is starting a recruitment team for the foster care system.
Greene County is in desperate need of more foster families according to Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services.
Omer Overbay is the Area 8 Community Engagement Specialist, and he says there are currently 188 foster kids but only 41 available beds.
"Of my nine counties 53 percent of my total kids are in Greene and Craighead, and Greene County actually has more kids, even though the population of Jonesboro is much larger," Overbay said.
Overbay said these numbers cause many kids to not have a foster home to go to, and some will be placed far away from their original home.
"They go to emergency shelters, or they have to go into institutions and group homes, and that is not what we want. We want our kids to have a foster parent and a foster home and not have to be removed from their home because when they do they have to go to different schools and we have to house them all over the state," Overbay said.
Kim Lavespere is a foster care caseworker for the Greene County Baptist Association, and she said going into the foster care system is traumatic.
"When a child comes into foster care they are there because of some type of drama but actually being put in the foster care system causes an additional trauma," Lavespere said.
She said the situation is even worse when kids are placed far away.
"They are of course separated from their family, their home, all of their belongings, everything that is close and near and dear to them but also their community, their schools, their friends and their activities," Lavespere said.
This is why Overbay and Lavespere are working to start a recruitment team for Greene County.
Overbay said Craighead County already has one made up of several people like social works, police officers, foster parents, mental health workers, ministers and counselors.
He said a recruitment team in Greene County will be beneficial as well.
"We will recruit foster families and also recruit volunteers who might support current and new foster families," Overbay said.
Lavespere said the team will also help bring awareness to the issue here in Greene County.
"Also making this issues a forefront in the conversations of our people, most people don't know that we are the leading number of foster children in the whole region 8," Lavespere said. "We also want to bring awareness of what the children and our foster families need as well."
She said having this type of team working to help and a recruit new families could help find a solution.
"We are asking families to help families and so we need those individuals that are willing to step out and make this a conversation piece and to work with those strategies,"
Both Overbay and Lavespere said if anyone is interested in being a foster family or getting involved with the recruitment team they can contact them directly.
Overbay can be reached at 870-972-1791 ext.1512 and Lavespere can be reached at 970-236-3213.
"Even if someone is just considering it we would like to speak to you about being a foster parent because the need is great and you can make a difference in a child's life," Overbay said.
Lavespere said they will also be hosting an information meeting at the Baptist Association on August 23 at 6 p.m.
Lavespere said she hopes this team can help bring in more families to help these kids in need.
"Our children are in desperate need of families that are willing to pour into them," Lavespere said.
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