Based in Fort Smith, The CALL in Crawford and Sebastian counties is working to address the foster care crisis in the area.

Emily Treadaway, assistant county coordinator for Crawford and Sebastian counties, said The CALL's mission is to educate, equip and encourage the Christian community to recruit and support foster families. Its vision is eventually to have no waiting children in the foster care system. The CALL started about 10 years ago in Pulaski County, and it came to Crawford and Sebastian counties about seven years ago.

Megan Scott, county coordinator for Crawford and Sebastian counties and Area II regional coordinator, said The CALL is a statewide group that has local affiliates that work with each local Division of Children and Family Services. It has a presence in 45 of Arkansas' 75 counties.

The CALL works with local churches to offer support for foster families. Treadaway said the organization tries to have what is called a "church rep," which is one person who represents The CALL in their home church. That way, if the organization needs items or training supplies to support its foster families or recruit new foster families, that person can reach out to his or her church and raise funds, donate items or other necessary actions.

"The church supports the families, and we just kind of gather the churches and kind of give them a direction of how to help," Treadaway said.

"So we use the church to help us bring the message to each congregation," Scott said. "And so, they are letting the congregation know about the foster care crisis, and ... giving them a tangible way to get involved by becoming a foster or adoptive family, or volunteering in some way, and then eventually ... like Emily said, each church will wrap around their own foster families to provide that unique support."

The CALL in Crawford and Sebastian Counties currently has about 60 partners in its two-county area, Scott said.

The organization has opened 46 foster homes in Crawford and Sebastian counties this year. Scott said Thursday it has 18 families in the process.

"That means they are either waiting to start training, or they're somewhere in between, getting ready to open their homes," Smith said. "We have some that will be opening their homes within the next week or so, and we have some of those families that will be starting training this weekend. ..."

When asked how many foster homes The CALL in Crawford and Sebastian Counties hopes to open by year's end, Scott said while she is hoping to get to 50, her goal is always 100 foster homes every year. However, she wants to make sure the organization is providing quality homes to DCFS.

"... That our homes are well-educated and they are well-prepared, and they have the support that they need when they open, and throughout the time that they're caring for children because it's not about just bringing any family in that says, 'yes,'" Scott said. "We need to make sure that they are well-equipped to provide for these children." 

Scott said as of October, Crawford County has 150 children in foster care, and Sebastian County has 748 children in foster care.

"... And the majority of the children in Crawford and Sebastian County are over the ages of 6, anywhere from 6 to 18," Scott said. "And so, when we work with the department (DCFS), we target recruit, meaning we go to our information meetings and to the churches, and we look for families that are willing to accept the children that are already in foster care, so it is very important that we are recruiting families that are willing to accept sibling groups and ... school-age children."