HATTIESBURG, Miss. — A weekend of intense training for new foster parents is scheduled for July 29-31 at William Carey University in Hattiesburg. The goal of “Rescue 100” is to provide 100 more licensed foster homes in order to meet the needs of abused and neglected children in the Pine Belt area. This area has the second greatest need for non-relative foster homes, surpassed only by the Coast, said Susie Q. Evans, Olivia Y. Settlement Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.
There are 302 licensed foster homes in Region 6, which includes Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River, Perry and Stone counties. However, only 152 homes are licensed for non-relative placement. Half of the foster care parents in the area are licensed only to care for members of their own extended families. Evans went on to say “There are more than 800 children in foster care in Region 6. We are in dire need of non-relative foster homes. That’s why this program is so important, because it focuses on non-relative foster homes.”
As of May 31, children in foster care by county included: 188 in Forrest County, 44 in Lamar County, 217 in Marion County, 238 in Pearl River County, 38 in Perry County, and 116 in Stone County. Rescue 100 is a collaborative effort of the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, the Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice, and adoption agencies including 200 Million Flowers, the Mississippi Children’s Home Society, and Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth. Area churches are also invited to join the effort.
“This is Child Protection Services, the courts and the faith-based community all coming together to meet the needs of our children,” said Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam of Sumrall. Organizers are planning to train 200 foster parents in Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River and Perry counties with eighty-one people already registered to participate.
Four orientations are scheduled at county courthouses across the region. Anyone interested in attending the weekend training must first attend an orientation. You can register at www.200millionflowers.org/rescue100.
The orientation will be held between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and are scheduled as follows: July 18 at the Marion County Chancery Court in Columbia; July 19 at the Pearl River County Courthouse in Picayune; July 20 at the Lamar County Courthouse in Purvis; and July 21 at the Forrest County Chancery Court in Hattiesburg. Justice Beam, who serves as the chair of the Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice, is spearheading the organization of the Rescue 100 programs and agrees there is a shortage of foster homes throughout the state. “We have children that need to be placed in foster care, and there is nowhere to place them,” Justice Beam said.
Previously, completing the licensing process took several months, with individual classes scheduled each week. In an effort to address the need for more foster parents, Rescue 100 will pack into three days all the classes that foster parents are required to complete in order to become licensed. Child Protection Services or a private agency will then follow up with individual home visits shortly afterwards.
The July 29-31 Rescue 100 program will be the second large scale training event held in recent times. Under the leadership of Pastor Tony Karnes, sixty-five prospective foster parents completed the entire weekend of training at Michael Memorial Baptist Church in Gulfport this past April. About 30 foster homes are expected to be licensed in Harrison and Hancock counties as a result of the April 15-17 session.
“We thought it was money well spent for the benefits we derived from the Coast event,” said Dr. David Chandler, Commissioner of the Department of Child Protection Services. “I think it is a good, cost-effective way to provide more and better services for the children.”
“We started in south Mississippi and we are working our way through the state,” Chandler said. A similar program will be held later this year to address the foster care needs in Hinds, Madison and Yazoo counties, he added.