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Officials: More foster homes needed for Mississippi kids

Even when it’s deemed in the best interest of a child, being removed from the only home they’ve known is one of the most traumatic experiences a young child can experience.

Having safe and loving foster homes for those children is essential for their adjustment while their parents work on improving their own lives to gain back custody, or until the children are adopted into new families.

However, there aren’t enough licensed foster families in Mississippi to meet the growing need.

Rescue 100 is a collaborative effort between the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services, the Mississippi Commission on Children’s Justice, 200 Million Flowers and churches across the state of Mississippi to provide loving homes for children in the foster system.

These organizations work together to streamline the training and certification process for resource families.

Craig Robertson, founder of 200 Million Flowers adoption agency, said the process for a non-relative home to be processed used to take months.

“When a child is removed from his or her home, usually the first place the CPS tries to place them with is a family member, preferably in the same community,” Robertson said. “When that isn’t available, they have to look outside of the child’s family; however, keeping the child in their community is important, when it’s possible.”

The Rescue 100 Training allows foster parents to be certified over the course of a few days.

For the first time, this training is being held in Oxford, from Feb. 24-26 at the University of Mississippi Robert Khayat School of Law.

Before attending the training, those interested in becoming foster parents must first register online for an orientation meeting on Feb. 6 at the Lafayette County Chancery Building.

At the one-hour orientation, families will learn about the Biblical basis for foster care, what being a resource family looks like and how they can become licensed to provide foster care. At the end of the orientation, families will be given the opportunity to complete the one-page Resource Family Application and will be given the Resource Family Packet to begin completing.

Over the course of the weekend training, participants will be able to complete the entire training program necessary to be licensed to provide foster care. Prospective resource families will be scheduled for home studies before licensing can be finalized.

Robertson, a family law attorney and Ole Miss graduate and his wife Rachel, became involved with Rescue 100 after seeing the success of the first training session, led by Pastor Tony Karnes of Michael Memorial Baptist Church in Gulfport in 2010.

The couple’s 200 Million Flowers is a faith-based non-profit adoption agency with a focus on foster care based in Ridgeland and partners with churches throughout Mississippi to recruit, train and support resource parents.

“A child could be removed from their home at 2 a.m.,” Robertson said. “Temporary shelters are often full. CPS staff are working the phones, trying to find a place for that child, or children, to go. We’re trying to build up the number of local families who are ready and licensed to take in that child.”

Robertson said there are currently 500 licensed non-relative foster families in Mississippi. The Rescue 100 program is aiming to add an additional 250 families to that list within the next two years.

For more information, visit http://www.200millionflowers.org/rescue100.