Foster Home Specifically for Sibling Groups in NW Arkansas
Organized by: Shea Flanagan
Just a couple of weeks ago in the beginning of May (National Foster Care Month), I turned on the morning news and was stunned to hear the horrific foster care system statistics in the state of Arkansas, but more alarmingly so here n NW AR. There are children being left behind, HUNDREDS are sleeping in DCFS offices and other not-so-healthy situations. These children are lost in the foster care legal shuffle ~ due to no fault of their own. My plan is to create a home for these children here in NW AR foster care system. If you have never had to go without food or shelter, or never had to question whether you were safe at home or not, you may not fully understand how important the feeling of safety is for a child and the impact that the loss of safety can make... When you add to the equation that child has already been neglected and/or abused – either physically, emotionally, sexually – creating a safe place is the most important thing we can do to responsibly care for these children in Northwest Arkansas. You can help. I have identified a very inexpensive (currently bank-owned 3 BR/ 1 BA house on approximately 1.5 acres ) property as a foster home for sibling groups. It is a very solid house which even boasts a severe weather storm shelter in the basement ~ which is essential in this area! There is not a state in this country that does not have significant trouble keeping sibling groups together once they become part of the state foster care system. I aim to take a bite out of that issue here in NW Arkansas. As I do not currently have a Non-Profit in place, I realize I can not ask that the bank who currently holds this property to donate it to this cause at this time, however, that could be a condition to realize this goal as well, given community interest in this local foster care home for sibling groups in Northwest Arkansas... I am not a woman of great means by any stretch of the imagination. That is why I am presenting my offer in this manner. When you read on, I will tell you who I am and why this project is such an important goal for the children of NW Arkansas. I sincerely hope that you will be willing to help to achieve this important goal. Thank you for your consideration! I know there are far too many important online funds you could give to, and we are so happy that you are considering helping us make this dream home for foster sibling groups a real home for foster sibling groups, so here is ~ The Who, What, When, Where, Why. and How this plan can become reality with a very small investment to make such a HUGE impact... **What: The plan begins with the purchase of a bank-owned property on approximately 1.5 acres located in Madison County (for $24,000) as a foster care home for sibling groups where they will always have a home-base, a lifetime place to come for family ~ support, education, camaraderie, and learn life skills necessary to become intelligent thoughtful adults of Northwest Arkansas and the world. These children need a place they will feel safe and nurtured, no matter what happens in their lives. This house in it's current layout (a 3BR/1BA) could house as many as 8 children (of the same family) or combinations of smaller sibling groups. This particular property allows for additions to the house and adding to the house to accommodate more children, and this is one of several long-term plans specifically for this project/property.. Creating a Non-Profit organization and making future investments in similar community real estate for the same use is also long-term goal of this project. **When: immediately. $24,000 for purchase of property from local banking institution, and following funds to renovate, update, remodel the home and property to best suit the needs of the foster children. **Where: Elkins AR 72727 (Madison County, AR) **Why: This is a scary fact: All children over the age of 7yrs old in the foster care system are considered “special needs” and are less likely to be adopted simply because of their age. Yes. That is true. When you compound to these astronomical figures that a majority of children have siblings, their likelihood of adoption continues to decrease dramatically as their likelihood of remaining in the foster care system without a home does as well. The need for a home like this is blatantly obvious. The need is definitely worthy. The need is truly immense... **How: I have approached several individuals and organizations in the area (and outside of Arkansas) regarding the possibilities of a project of this nature, and I have only had positive results (no surprise there!). There are many individuals and organizations in this area that have already offered their personal assistance to bring the home from it's current condition to being approved by DCFS for the home study in a very short time. I will continue to approach different local companies and organizations to assist with the property so it will be a welcoming and safe home for these children suffering from neglect and abuse. By approaching local businesses/sources and appealing to the empathetic nature so often demonstrated here in NW AR, I firmly believe that there will be an outpouring of assistance and materials for not only beginning this project, but sustaining it for years to come! There will be (at least) monthly get-togethers where we would invite individuals (from within and outside the immediate community, as they are available) who can teach/guide the children regarding their interests, school topics/projects, computers / computer programming, gardening, crafts, food preparation, animal husbandry, various sports, etc. Recording these sessions would provide lessons not only to the children at this home, but can also be posted online for general education use! It definitely appears as the previous homeowners gardened extensively and this would be an excellent on-going house project for the children who reside in the home. Organically grown produce (fresh, canned, frozen) would be a staple in these childrens' diets, and bringing organically grown produce to the farmers markets to sell can also become a way to fund specific projects they are interested in. There also appears to be enough room for small animal projects (goat/chickens/etc) for children to become involved in Future Farmers, 4H Groups, etc if they are interested. We will also be providing computers and mentoring to the children interested in pursuing the computer arts and other corporate-related fields, and local communities and schools not only offer the widest range of sports and training in nearly every discipline imaginable, but also being able to compete and begin athletic careers. Initial contact has been established with Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services, EOA Childrens House, Childrens Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, NW Arkansas Childrens Shelter, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Washington County Habitat for Humanity ('Women Build' Project), The Call, and The Next Step (amongst many many others) for long-term relationship building in NW AR (and specific training/licensing needs, of course). As mentioned earlier, there is a storm shelter in the basement of the house, which is paramount for severe weather in the area. Several notebooks have been kept detailing out specific work, updates, accounting, calendars, etc for the property to be done over time when funds/materials are available, so specific details of the project, timeline, benefits and on-going progress updates and schedules are available for those interested. Such as door and window upgrades, bathroom upgrades, kitchen updates, porch / outdoor decks and greenhouse design / creation, bedroom additions, and the like. **Who: My name is Shea. I was born in Boston MA and grew up on the beaches of Cape Cod, and I will be 50 years old on June 8, 2016. I am a formerly licensed foster parent (licensed via House Of Samuel in Cambridge OH) where I was very fortunate to have had specific and in-depth training / certification in 'Parenting The Hurt Child' directly from the author [ http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/173571.Parenting_the_Hurt_Child } Regina Kupecky which partly made my foster home in Ohio a therapeutic foster home. Although I lived on the opposite side of the state, I often traveled 5 ½ hrs to participate in events held by Harrison County (Cincinnati, OH) Department of Childrens Services ~ like meet and greet's, discussions regarding specific children and their needs, as well as just taking several children out bowling at different times. I easily developed a number of important working bonds with several childrens services workers / departments iner- and intra-state, schools and school counselors, different types of pediatric medical professionals as well as Guardian Ad Litems. I have YMCA training in Lifesaving and Boating & water safety, and have previously been certified in CPR. I rode and trained horses professionally most of my adult life until I had a injury which prevented me from returning to the sport full-time. I have extensive sports psychology training while studying at and competing on the Intercollegiate Equestrian Team for Boston University, and Virginia Intermont College (Bristol, VA), and later online with life coaching certification classes through International Coaching Academy (ICA). I am also a breast cancer survivor ~ and as of my 50th birthday, I have been cancer free for 8 years. My last full-time job was in the Department of Drivers Licensing with The Texas Department of Public Safety (State Police), and have received extensive training in document fraud detection, similar (TX vs AR) state laws, and specifically in drivers licensing/permit requirements / testing which will come in quite handy with teens in the household. I easily passed the military background check with the state police necessary for employment. I have no criminal record of any type, although I been fingerprinted 3 times. Once for Dept of Children and Family Services in Ohio, Once for employment (bonded) with Capital One Finance, and Once for TX Department of Public Safety employment. I am a genuinely-motivated individual whose only priorities are for the design of a home for sibling groups ~ and other older "special needs" children who have gotten lost in the shuffle in the foster care system here in NW Arkansas. In my educated opinion, this particularly identified property envelops a simple design for success in providing a safe and caring home that is designed to impart knowledge to help these children learn to make their own decisions over their lifetime. These children need to know that whether they are adopted by a family or not, this home will always be “home” where they can come to for familial support and camaraderie from an ever-growing family over their lifetimes. This particular property is available immediately, is not expensive and will not require a great deal of money to renovate/upgrade, is located close to Fayetteville (Univ. of Arkansas)/Springdale/Bentonville offering un-ending options... Let's make it a reality! ***In Closing*** We WILL provide a safe, non-discriminatory household with structure and individually-chosen and age-appropriate responsibilities for these children in the foster care system. These children have enough to worry about without worrying about being discriminated against for their race, creed, age, physical or mental disabilities/conditions, sexual gender &/or association and/or orientation, ethnicity, etc. If you have never had to go without food or shelter, or never had to question whether you were safe at home or not, you may not fully understand how important the feeling of safety is for a child. When you add to the equation that child has already been neglected and/or abused – either physically, emotionally, sexually – creating a safe place is the most important thing we can do to responsibly care for these children in Northwest Arkansas. You can help.