TIFTON — After a busy 2019, Called to Care is in the middle of its annual end of the year capital campaign. This year, the group’s goal is $60,000.
Called to Care is a nonprofit focused on serving foster families, foster children and adoptive families, working to meet the needs of the children while supporting caregivers.
This year, Called to Care has served around 375 children in Tift and Turner County, according to founder and president Laura Maxwell.
That includes children who are in foster care, who are transitioning into adoption or are part of a family preservation or reunification effort.
Similar to previous years, Maxwell has seen the need for foster care and foster families rise in 2019.
She points to drug abuse as a common cause, whether the drug is opioids or methamphetimines.
Maxwell also seen a larger focus on keeping family units together when possible, part of the Family First Prevention Services Act signed into law in 2018.
The act changes how federal child welfare financing works, putting more money into providing services to families whose children are at risk of going into the state foster system.
“There are more programs to sustain the original family unit,” Maxwell said.
Instead of pulling kids away from families, there’s more emphasis on making the homes more suitable for children when possible.
As an example, Annie Shirey, Called to Care’s new director in Tift and Turner counties, points to providing beds for children.
“If we can help them get beds for the children, that’s a big one,” said Shirey. “And this time of year, heaters. That’s the basic needs, if we can help the families without the children being removed.”
“The government is probably spending the same amount of money, but they were putting a lot of money into foster care,” said Maxwell. “They’ve done a shift…in that money to the original family unit to see if they can help them keep it together.”
The holidays are a busy time of year for everyone, and especially for Called to Care.
“When the weather gets cold, they need warmer clothes,” said Maxwell. “There’s more needs that arise, whether it be heaters or blankets.”
Shirey started as director in Tift and Turner counties in September after volunteering with the program.
“I felt like the Lord placed it on my heart to do more than just volunteering,” said Shirey. “There was so much possibility, but we needed manpower to help orchestrate things for next year.”
“We were in survive mode,” said Maxwell, “but luckily Annie’s here now.”
In her first few months, Shirey has been affected by how much people want to help.
“I expected there to be a lot of really hard and sad stories, just from my experience,” said Shirey. “But I would say what touched me and surprised me was seeing how many people care about children, vulnerable children. You’re touched that so many people are giving. And are looking for an opportunity to serve children. There’s so many people who want to do something.”
“In a way, we’re like the bridge between people in the community who really want to do something,” Shirey added. “What we do well is act as a bridge between finding the needs, identifying the need and then plugging people in to fill those needs.”
Those volunteers run the gamut from foster families to people to cook meals for those families to delivery teams, such as the Eastside Baptist Church team and the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, who get things to the people who need them.
“We have so many wonderful ministers and groups to serve families in our community,” said Maxwell.
With a capital campaign goal of $60,000, there are many things Maxwell and Shirey want to do in 2020.
That includes more adoption grants and helping families with adoption costs.
“We’re already anticipating several applicants,” said Maxwell.
They also plan to award international mission grants.
Training is also a focus. Called to Care hosts training for “trauma informed care,” talking with teachers and school staff about how to recognize signs of trauma in students and how to react to them.
“It’s ‘This is what you say, this is how you react, this is what they need and this is what they’re saying to you,’” said Maxwell.
Maxwell would like to expand it to each school in Tift and Turner counties.
“It’s going to help teachers reach kids better and meet their needs, their emotional needs and their educational needs,” said Maxwell.
They also want to talk to more churches about the work Called to Care does and how churches can help.
“We have about 14 church partners who are trying to serve the whole county,” said Maxwell. “We would love to meet and talk with [additional churches], with their staff, on Sunday morning during service, about the whole ministry.
“Any way they can partner with us can totally be a blessing.”
Donations can be mailed to Called To Care P.O. Box 2396 Tifton GA 31793.