A Chattooga County couple recently earned state recognition for their efforts to reunite foster children with their parents.
James and Larita Burke, foster parents for the Chattooga County Department of Family and Children Services, received a certificate and recognition along with a select number of colleagues from the state’s 14 regions at a luncheon in their honor.
“The Burkes are truly heroes in their community for their compassion and effectiveness in enabling families to solve their personal crises and return to caring for their children,” said Samantha Walker, state reunification manager. “They prove our approach works when we partner with parents on a reunification plan and work together to equip parents for the toughest job there is – being a mother or father.”
June is Reunification Month, and this is the first year the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services has used it to recognize employees, foster parents and service providers for their success in getting families back together. Each month, an average of 313 families are reunited in Georgia.
“Our goal is to strengthen families so they can provide safe, stable, loving homes for their children,” said Division Director Tom Rawlings. “We help them through whatever struggles may be interrupting stability, and if things were serious enough to require the child to be temporarily removed from the home for safety reasons, then we rush to get the family back on their feet and reunite them as quickly as possible.”
The Division works each year with the families of tens of thousands of children across Georgia. Fewer than 5 percent of the reports of alleged maltreatment result in the need to remove the child from home over risk of imminent danger. Of those placed in foster care, the majority are reunited with their families.
As foster parents in Chattooga County for the past five years, the Burkes work to assist in the reunification process by establishing relationships with the parents of the children in their care. They invite the biological parents into their home for visitations with their children, help to mentor the parents, and provide them with transportation when needed.
When a juvenile court judge decides a child must be removed from home and placed into foster care, the Division finds foster parents to provide a temporary home. Foster parents are always in short supply.
Anyone interested in learning about becoming a foster parent can visit FosterGeorgia.com or call 800-210-KIDS.