Local children in difficult situations could receive a new form of assistance soon.
Isaiah 117, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in foster care, is planning to build a halfway house for children in McMinn and Monroe counties.
According to Project Coordinator Jennifer Collins, Isaiah 117 is a ministry that changes the way foster care begins for children.
“We provide a home ... Removal day, the day children are removed from homes for their safety, children are taken to a DCS office to wait for foster placement,” said Collins. “They are typically taken to an office where they have to wait for hours, sometimes a lot of hours, where they have to sit and wait for the foster placement. So a Isaiah 117 house is a home that is fully furnished and fully stocked where children will go to during removal day instead of sitting in an office.”
She noted their hope is for there to be no child sitting in a conference room or cubical during what is already a difficult day.
“We have loving volunteers who will take care of that child and provide them with everything that they need,” she expressed. “A lot of times children will come into foster care with nothing but the clothes on their back, so we will provide clothing for them for two or three days and anything else that is needed for that child.”
Collins stated that they have a three-part mission for their care.
“The first is to reduce the trauma of children who are coming into care,” she said. “That starts with them coming to Isaiah house and having all of their needs met.”
The second part of their mission is to work alongside case workers to ease their workload.
“Caseworkers are overworked and underpaid and they are the ones who are going to the homes, removing the children, going to drive-thrus to feed the children out of their own pocket ... they provide a lot of services for the children, so our second part is to help them,” she stated. “When the children come to Isaiah house the caseworkers will have time to do all of the things they need to do knowing that we are taking care of the children.”
The last part of the mission is to ease the transition for foster families.
“We provide everything those children need for the first two or three days of foster placement, which relieves some of the burden on foster families having to immediately supply those for the child,” she noted. “We just want to ease that transition for foster families to make it an easier ‘yes’ for them.”
According to Collins, Isaiah 117 has begun working with Department of Children’s Services (DCS) in both McMinn and Monroe counties, but doesn’t yet have a place to house children. That is the next step, she added.
“In July we teamed up with McMinn County and we will have one home to serve the children of both counties,” Collins expressed. “We don’t have land yet, but we are praying for land. We spoke with both counties and they agree that the Englewood area, either on or close to (Highway) 411, would be the close to a central location for both counties.”
She noted they would need roughly one acre of land and hope to have the land and a house built and open by the end of this calendar year.
“We really appreciate the outpouring of support that we received from the community thus far,” she expressed. “We are already serving the children of both counties. Right now when children go into care, DCS reaches out to us ... We just ask that the community continues to support our mission and if anyone would like to get involved we do have a Facebook page that is Isaiah 117 House Monroe McMinn and we also have a website isaiah117house.com where you can sign up to volunteer, donate or become a monthly partner with us.”