A New Direction. A New Purpose.
Thank you for your interest in our agency. An Open Door has been placing children through our domestic and international programs for over 30 years. The Suitcase Movement is our newest program that was started about 5 years ago and has been developing. Through this program, we work hand-in-hand with Georgia DFCS to help place their waiting children into permanent homes of families willing to support the needs of these children.
The goal of Georgia’s foster care program is to provide excellent temporary care in a foster home while staff work with the biological families to reunite these children with their families, as soon as this can reasonably be achieved. Sometimes, reunification cannot be realized and those children may, after several years in foster care, be made available for adoption. The first choice for DFCS is to find a fit and willing relative to adopt the child, and many are indeed adopted by relatives. But, if a relative cannot be identified, then the foster parent currently serving them, is given first option to adopt that child. If they choose not to do so, other foster parents are considered before they go to the adoption only list.
Now, many of the children who have been in foster care for years are also traumatized and disconnected children with many issues that are sometimes difficult to handle. These are the children who are listed on It’s My Turn Now. They are usually considered “difficult to place” children, for a variety of reasons. These may include physical, and mental health issues, behavioral problems, educational or developmental delays. This requires families who are equipped and trained to better deal with the concerns presented by children with these needs. Families must be willing to support these needs and educate themselves on ways to meet the needs of these children. But, they are often not prepared to do so.
There are about 14,000 foster children in Georgia and not nearly enough foster homes. Every year, the State closes many foster homes while they open many new ones. But the need is always greater than the supply. This means many children must be cared for in group situations rather than one or two parent homes. Or they may be institutionalized due to lack of available space in a group home. Group homes are not always the best option. More foster homes are needed and that is definitely the better option. The need is great.
As a result of working with DFCS over the past several years, The Leadership and Staff of the Suitcase Movement have decided to reorganize and re-focus the Suitcase Movement in a new direction, toward recruiting, training, and approving foster homes who can meet the needs of Georgia’s children in foster care, from the beginning of their need. We will still focus on recruiting good, stable Christian homes, according to Open Door’s criteria. But we want to help recruit and train those who can provide both temporary (foster) care to traumatized children, AND who are also open to adopting those children and giving them the permanence they so desperately need. Our families will need to be able to do both, Reunification (if that is the eventual outcome) Or adoption, (if that becomes available to them.) It means holding the children with an “open hand” and allowing God’s Will to be done in HIS time. But,
This will create forever homes for those children who are freed for adoption without an identified relative adoption resource. There will be the added benefit of the foster family who now already knows the child and has been serving them for a substantial period of time. This will lessen the transition difficulties that we’ve seen with other placement situations. We will seek to partner with churches, and other faith-based organizations in the State of Georgia who are engaged in the same kinds of endeavors.
Currently, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the State of Georgia for writing home studies and placement in adoptive homes, and we are revising this to include the home study/approval of foster homes. We will not be managing these foster homes as a Child Placing Agency (CPA) but will work with DFCS to provide support and resources to the families with the goal of ensuring their success. Our new purpose is to help increase the numbers of approved foster homes who are specifically trained to handle the challenging needs of Georgia’s foster children.