LaGRANGE — Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services makes it its mission to put children first in the community.
This week, the organization is bringing together city and county leaders, churches and several nonprofit agencies to support its Safe Families division during a conference called “Our Children, Our Future.”
Candi Gibson is the coordinator for Safe Families. She hopes the forum will provide people with more information about the program and help them find more volunteer host families.
Safe Families for Children is a nationwide program that partners with the church to temporarily care for at-risk children while strengthening families. Unlike the Department of Family and Children Services, participating parents in Safe Families retain full custody of their children, have contact with them, and can request the return of their children at any time.
“We’re really like a neighbor or a friend. We’re helping and mentoring,” Gibson said. “Families are very resilient when they know someone is there, someone they can lean on and help them.”
Since the program’s inception in January 2015, Safe Families for Children has hosted 16 children. They have seven “host families” but more are needed, said Gibson. There is a waiting list with children who need a temporary home.
Gibson hopes after the conference this week, more people will step up, volunteer and eliminate that list.
“Everyone is welcome,” Gibson said. “Social workers, church members, people who have retired from their careers … anyone who cares about the community. We want to show them how easy it is to volunteer for Safe Families. It’s just a few hours a week.”
She said, “If we could mobilize just 10 percent of the community, we wouldn’t have the need for foster care.”
The average stay for children in the Safe Families program is 11 days, Gibson said.
“We’re receiving a lot of referrals (of children) just by word of mouth,” she said. ” We’ve gotten three referrals from DFACS … We want to get 30 to 40 host families. We want to be there for these kids who have no one who can care for them and nowhere to go. Then, we can ease the burden of foster care and on DFACS.”
The conference will include a luncheon allowing participants to network with community leaders and other agencies.
The event will begin with a panel discussion from local leaders such as Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff, city of LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton, Troup County State Court Judge Jeannette Little and more.
The conference will include a forum on race relations, volunteer opportunities, and testimonies from churches and families participating in the Safe Families for Children program.
“Hopefully, our guests will be inspired and mobilized for service,” Gibson said. “The more bonds we make, the stronger the community will become. The stronger the community, the better we can serve the families and children in need.”
The “Our Children, Our Future” conference will take place 9 a.m. Thursday at the Twin Cedars Coleman Center, 701 Lincoln St. Lunch will be included.
Anyone wanting more information about the conference or Safe Families for Children program can contact Gibson at 706-298-0050, ext. 1073 or [email protected]
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.