Caring for Our Own: Foster-care home opening in Polk County
Published 11:56 am Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Community invited to get involved
SALUDA—Less than a year after committing to “do something” to improve foster care for children in Polk County, a community coalition has finished renovations on a single-family home in Saluda set to house a professional foster-care parent and up to five children this fall.
“The home itself is ready, and Polk County Health and Human Services Division of Social Services has children waiting for local placement,” says Rob Parsons, pastor at Saluda United Methodist Church, one of several community-based organizations supporting the project. “All we have left to do is help the foster parent move in, which should occur in the next several weeks or so.”
To celebrate the opening, inform the public about foster care in the county and explain ways individuals can get involved in supporting Polk County’s children, organizers are holding three informational meetings open to the public. A light supper will be served at each.
- Introduction to Foster Care and Bridging Families – Thursday, Sept 21, 5:30-7:30 at SUMC.
- Understanding Trauma and Building Resilience – Thursday, Oct 12, 5:30-7:30 at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Saluda.
- Trust-Based Relational Intervention for Caregivers – Thursday, Nov 2, 5:30-7:30 at SUMC.
More information and updates on each of these meetings are available at Saluda United Methodist Church Facebook page. To attend and help plan for food, register for free at https://withall.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/1940404
According to Parsons, it took a village “and then some” to make this home a reality. Officially, it’s a joint effort of SUMC and WithALL congregations, Polk County Health and Human Services Division of Social Services, Crossnore Communities for Children, Dogwood Health Trust and a private donor. SUMC’s congregation owns the property and will rent it to Crossnore Communities, as part of its Bridging Families Program. Behind the scenes, WithALL Collaboration put together a coalition of local churches, nonprofits, government agencies, and professionals who worked to secure the property, and also raised funding for renovations and attracted the Bridging Families Program.
The SUMC congregation raised the initial capital funds for the real estate, which was substantially enhanced by an anonymous donor. The United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina put together a mortgage package that would satisfy the owner of the house while meeting the SUMC’s budget. Wesley Community Development Group provided guidance to create legal contracts that worked for all parties, and Dogwood Health Trust gave the means for renovations on the home.
Within the next few weeks, the Bridging Families Program will place a licensed foster parent—a bridge-parent certified in trauma-informed care, in the home full-time for the children. With family reunification as the goal, the program provides children with wrap-around support, including access to mental health and medical care, case management, education assistance, recreational opportunities and a community support network. Parents receive parenting skills education, education on trauma and service access assistance. The program aims to support children and their families in healing their trauma while building resilience.
According to Kim Wilson, senior program manager at Polk County Health and Human Services Division of Social Services, the county has never had enough foster homes to support the number of children in their legal custody—and the issue only seems to get worse.
“Having to place a child outside the county or split up a sibling group makes what’s already a traumatic situation even more of one,” says Wilson. “In addition to being taken from their home, kids placed outside the county lose access to other relatives, friends, neighbors, their church, school, sports teams and other extracurricular activities.” She further points out that the distance often makes the situation even more challenging as it becomes a barrier to weekly family visits and reunification efforts—not to mention increasing travel time and costs for the caseworker.
“While these five new spaces don’t solve Polk County’s foster-care challenges, they do give us five new opportunities to keep our children in our county and a better chance to keep sibling groups together,” Parsons adds. “This home is a testament to the power of our community to care for our children and show they are a priority. This foster home expands our community’s safety net, our opportunities to strengthen families right here in Polk County, and the promise of a healthy and productive life for all.”