By Joel Phelps
There are currently 37 children in Clark County in foster care, and only five foster homes to care for them. Local church leaders, however, plan to change that with ongoing efforts by The CALL of Clark County.
Jillian Battaglia, county coordinator, told a crowd Friday morning at First Baptist Church that The CALL’s mission is to “take care of the orphans and widows that are in distress.” Volunteers and donations help to narrow the ratio of foster children to foster homes.
Battaglia and other volunteers relaunched The CALL’s mission with a ribbon cutting, hosted by the Arkadelphia Alliance and Chamber of Commerce.
The CALL was formed in Arkansas in 2006 when churches saw the need for foster families, Battaglia said, and slowly but surely the mission spread throughout the state. The CALL now has a presence in 57 of the state’s 75 counties. Clark County’s local organization was formed in 2014.
The CALL’s role in foster care is recruiting and training families to take in foster children, then to provide continued support to those families. The nonprofit group offers its services for free. Among the services it offers is routine “support nights”, family support coordinators that regularly call and check in on foster families, and The CALL Mall, a pantry that includes food, sundries and other essentials to help care for foster children.
Battaglia offered statistics of foster care in Arkansas: there are currently 4,991 foster children in the state and 1,500 families to care for them. She said Covid-19 caused an uptick in the number of foster children and a decrease in the number of foster families. It isn’t all gloomy news, however, as in the past year more than 1,000 families have attended informational meetings — Clark County will hold one Monday, Nov. 1, at Third Street Baptist Church — and of those, 400 families were opened to care for foster children.
Last year, Battaglia said, 901 families in Arkansas cared for 3,810 children, and since The CALL formed 14 years ago its has serviced 23,000 children and youth in Arkansas.
In addition to Monday’s informational meeting (four local families have pledged their attendance, with more hopefuls planning to attend), The CALL will hold its first support night on Nov. 9 with a speaker and a church-donated meal. The CALL also has Christmas plans to showcase a foster family so donors will have a “hands-on initiative” and see how their donations are used, Battaglia said.