Chief Juvenile Court Judge Juvenile Court Lindsay Burton handles cases where children are charged with crimes, but also handles cases where children are removed from parents’ or caregiver’s custody based on neglect or abuse . Judge Burton will discuss the state of foster care in our area.
Question: What is the condition of foster care in Hall County?
Judge Burton: Foster families are needed throughout the state, but in Hall County there is a crisis. Currently there are more than 200 children in foster care but only 25-30 of these children are located in Hall County.
Question: Compared to previous years, is this an increase in the number of children in foster care or decrease?
Judge Burton: Prior to 2013, Hall County averaged around 130 children in foster care – by the end of 2013, we topped 200 and haven’t gone done since then – so for an already strained system, this makes things that much worse.
Question: If foster children aren’t placed in Hall County, where are they placed?
Judge Burton: All over the state.
Question: What does that mean for these children when they are so far away?
Judge Burton: It’s traumatic – there is trauma when children are removed from their home – even a home that is filled with abuse – then there is further trauma if sibling groups are split up – and there is further trauma when the child is removed from the community.
Any positive bond that the child may have with a neighbor, teacher, friends’ parent – it’s gone – through no fault of their own – a child wakes up in a new home, with new people, a new school and expected to make new friends
I’m not sure how an adult would be able to handle this – much less a child. In addition, for school-aged children – there is a huge impact on their education.
Question: What can the people of Hall County do to help?
Judge Burton: If you’re out there, saying “I never knew this was a problem” – you’re not alone – many people are not familiar with this crisis – educating our community is step one.
You can help the most by becoming a foster parent or talking to your church about developing a foster care ministry.
If every church in this community had just one foster family and a group of others supporting them, we could fix this crisis. I have seen how faith-based organizations have gone into Gwinnett County and Forsyth County and joined with churches to seriously help in developing and maintaining foster families. Hall County CAN fix this issue.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent – you can contact DFCS or a number of different private agencies that can get you through foster parent training quickly. Imagine the impact you could have on a child’s life – showing them what a healthy household looks like – it literally could change their future.