Several years ago, Emily Treadaway and her husband Chad attended an Informational Meeting held at their church. They were interested in adopting and wanted to know what The CALL was about and how they could get started. This journey eventually led to Emily volunteering with The CALL and she now leads the Crawford and Sebastian team as the County Coordinator.
As a native of Fort Smith and graduate of Alma High School, she understands the unique situation facing this area. While Fort Smith is one of the larger cities in the state, it and the surrounding River Valley are very different than other major areas like Little Rock or Northwest Arkansas. “We are a blue collar town, that lost a lot of blue collar jobs, but we work hard and we’re going to overcome our challenges as a community,” said Treadaway. “One of the challenges facing this area, is the overwhelming number of children and youth in foster care.”
With over 611 children and youth in foster care, Crawford & Sebastian Counties have the highest numbers in the state. The CALL is the number one recruiter of traditional foster homes, and Treadaway says, “We’ve opened 18 new homes this year and are presently working to open another 23,” but there is still work to be done. Currently, there are just over 130 available homes, providing around ½ a bed for every child that is in care. “This is one reason we joined the Chamber, we have to get the word out about these children and youth who need homes.” Treadaway stated, “Yes, we are a Christian organization that recruits families through the Church, but the issue is a community one and we must work together if we are going to see improvement.”
Their most recent awareness event was Stand Sunday, when The CALL joined the global celebration by asking churches in the community to recognize this special day during their service on November 10th. During their Business After Hours event this month, they invited those in attendance to be a part of the movement as well, by taking a stand in their community on behalf of children and youth in foster care. Although, Stand Sunday has passed, it’s not too late to participate. There are many ways you can “stand” in the gap for these children and youth in foster care.
In the United States, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster system today due to abuse and severe neglect. About one quarter have been permanently removed from their parents. For these children, the wait for a family often exacerbates trauma the child suffered in their own home. Every year, more than 20,000 children “age out” into adulthood without a permanent family.
Foster youth face immense difficulties. Children aging out of the system without the support of a family are far more vulnerable to traffickers, prostitution, homelessness and a host of other ills. A 2013 human trafficking raid by the FBI found that 60% of child victims came from foster care. “These outcomes affect all of us in the community, the chance of homelessness, drug use and criminal activity all increase for someone who ages out of care without being adopted,” Treadaway stated, “Currently, there are 363 children and youth ready to be adopted, 66% of those are 13 years old or older and most of them have been waiting to be adopted for over 2 years.”
Seeking to change these numbers, The CALL works to recruit, train and support foster and adoptive families to be an answer for these children. “We hold monthly recruitment events at local churches, where we discuss the need, the facts about foster care and provide families with the opportunity to ask questions,” Treadaway stated. “We also invite our partners from DCFS to speak at these events and they always stay afterwards to make sure everyone has their questions answered.”
They train the families with dedicated volunteers, at no cost to the family or to the state. The trainings are held at a convenient time and location currently, at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry house on the UAFS campus. “The support we offer varies from monthly support groups to diapers and cleaning supplies,” says Treadaway. They partner with several local businesses and individuals to raise funds and donations to ensure the families have the support they need.
The need for families can feel overwhelming. However, through the efforts of local churches in Arkansas working together with The CALL since 2007, over 2,200 families have opened their homes to foster or adopt, providing care for over 18,000 children and youth. Additionally, over 1,500 children and youth have found their forever families through adoption. But there is so much more to do. We need more than 2,500 new foster homes to have more than enough families for every Arkansas child in care.
In order to accomplish this, The CALL relies heavily on volunteers. In Crawford and Sebastian Counties, there are over 35 active volunteers. “Our volunteers do everything from clean the Support Center, to address envelopes, train new families or serve Thanksgiving Dinner,” Treadaway says, “there’s an opportunity for everyone to do something.” Their next Information Meeting will be held December 9th starting at 6pm at Forefront Church in Fianna Hills. Check out their Facebook page for registration information.
To find out how you can make a difference in the life of children and youth in foster care contact Emily Treadaway at 479-353-0767 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit TheCALLinArkansas.org to see all of their upcoming events and their work around the state.