Greensboro Organization Looks To Close Gap In Foster Care Placement System
Since August, 23 kids have called a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house in Greensboro home. It's spacious, quiet and full of toys, books and has a fully stocked fridge and a playground. And it's the first of its kind in North Carolina.
The Anchor Hope home is an interim foster home. It serves as a place where children who have been removed from their homes can stay while waiting for placement into a foster home.
"I can't imagine being three years old, and being taken from my parents and then taken to this building, where I'm going to sit for the next however many days or hours," Executive Director Michelle Pyle said. "Our goal was to provide them something homelike that's comfortable, that's less traumatic, that makes them feel safe."
Six kids can stay in the home at one time.
The gap before placement is a persistent problem. Younger children, like babies and toddlers, are usually placed within hours.
However, for older children it can take days or even weeks. One teenager was at the Anchor Hope home for two months before a foster family was available.
"It is so hard to find placements for these kids, when you have a limited number of families especially during COVID," Pyle said. "Right now, families don't want to take kids in because they don't know where they've been."
More than 12,000 children move through the North Carolina foster care system.
By 2024, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services hopes to provide immediate foster homes for every child in the state who needs one. They plan to do this by increasing the number of foster parents and lessening the turnover.
Foster parents usually only last a year. Pyle is also a foster mom. She said foster parents need more support.
"Sometimes you just need some advice," she said. "If they come from abusive family, that abuse turns into how they then react to situations, they can react violently, or they verbally attack the foster parent. They need that support to know what do I do next? Do I keep this child in my home? Do we need to find him another location?"
Karen McCleod is the CEO of Benchmarks, an alliance of agencies that work to provide quality care to families, children and adults in the state.
She said there's an emotional and mental strain children face when they enter into the foster care system.
"Having these interims where they're staying at a hotel or sleeping at the office is further traumatic for the child," she said. "As you can imagine just being removed and placed with strangers in the first place, if you put yourself in the position of a child, that's pretty terrifying."
The Anchor Hope home is staffed by volunteers, its annual budget is about $70,000, funded by grants and donations. However, fundraising is a challenge now.
"When I first started doing this, I started out by calling small businesses in the past, we had been getting money from private donations, church groups, small businesses, but of course, with the pandemic, and COVID closures and restrictions," Board member Joanie Capps said. "A lot of them said, I would love to help but I just can't."
Despite the challenges, Anchor Hope is looking to expand into Davidson County soon.
Even as the budget gets tighter, the kids keep on coming.
Pyle said it's like that almost everywhere.
"The system is so overwhelmed that it's statewide," she said. "It's countrywide, that these kids are coming into care. They just need that place to be themselves where they can just be a kid."