Parenting Classes
Our goal is to restore a stable and loving relationship between struggling parents and their children who have been taken into state custody and placed into foster care. Children and their parents are provided a safe environment for emotional healing from abuse, neglect, and separation.

“I am returning…with
compassion; My house
shall be built in it,’ says
the Lord of hosts.”
(Zechariah 1:16)

The Heartbreaking Statistics
In Georgia over 10,000 children are in protective care. Every month Whitfield and Murray Counties receive approximately 300+ phone calls alleging child abuse, molestation, truancy, or neglect.

Currently, there are 345 children who have been removed from their homes in Whitfield and Murray Counties. Most of these children have two active parents (whether a biological parent or grandparents) and four other relatives who actively participate in their lives—so the total number of people affected by the removal of these children is 2,415!

During the past five years, over 1,500 children in Whitfield and Murray Counties have been taken into foster care. The vast majority of these (over 75%) are never reunited with their parents.

Without question, there is a major crisis when the children and families are being divided, unhelped, and unhealed. “Research has shown that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder is higher among foster care alumni than it is for war veterans,” says Dr. John Seita, Professor of Social Work at Michigan State University.

Currently, upwards of 250 people benefit from Compassion House’s services every month (including children and their extended families). Sadly, siblings put in other homes and relatives (grandparents, aunts, and uncles) want their own visitation opportunities, but a lack of funding prevents this from happening.

Why Visitation is Crucial

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

At Compassion House families share quality time together doing numerous activities, using the games, books, and toys we provide. Our four, cheerful, homey rooms are decorated for maximum comfort. Parents and their children celebrate birthdays and holidays together, and we are open every year on Christmas day. Numerous social service studies prove that frequent, supervised visitation is key in the reunification process. In plain English that means parents are more likely to succeed with their case plans and prove themselves ready for the responsibilities of parenting again when regular visits occur (Loar, 1998; Hess & Proch, 1993).

Benefits of Frequent Visitation include:

• Less emotional and developmental damage. Having this secure attachment in place promotes a greater capacity for self-regulation, effective social interactions, self-reliance, and adaptive coping skills later in life.

• Fewer health risks. Research on toddlers and infants have discovered that not having this secure attachment can cause long-term harm and damage to brain circuits because of an excess of cortisol (a stress hormone). (Though this study did not include the stress older children and their parents face, it is obvious that separation, except in the cases of pathological abuse, causes overwhelming feelings of despair.)

• The family relationship is strengthened.

• Hope is kept alive for the parent(s) and motivates them to change. Parents who are granted frequent visitation are 70% more likely to succeed with their case plans.

• Visits provide a sense of stability. On average, children have 3 different foster care placements. Frequent moves in and out of the houses of well-meaning strangers can be profoundly unsettling for children, and it is not uncommon to hear of children who have been in 20-30 different homes. Many are also separated from their siblings.

Visitation’s Current Crisis

Given the research that proves the importance of visitation, it is tragic that federal and state grants for this service have been cut across the country. Parents and children now have fewer and shorter visits than ever before.

Can you imagine how you would feel if you could only see your child 3 hours a month? Now, try to imagine how devastated your child would feel from such limited contact. . . .

Compassion House’s goal is that children have a visit with their parents every week.

The average age of a child taken into foster care is ten years old. When you see that eager, worried little child running into the arms of their parents, you catch a glimpse of the importance of maintaining a bond to ease the devastating pain of separation.

The Daily Citizen interviewed a mother named Jennifer, who stated:

“If I hadn’t had my weekly visits with Rylie, there’s no way I would have finished my case plan. I learned that drugs are bad, but it’s hard to quit unless you have a good reason. Rylie is the best reason of all. I’m always wondering, ‘What if I ever did it again?’ But then I look at her.”

Jennifer and Rylie’s success story was reported one month after the funding that provided for weekly visitation was cut.

Why Visitation Alone Is Not Enough To Save Families from Permanent Separation

Children who are placed in foster care are confused and deeply miss their parents, grandparents, and siblings. Separated from everything they have known, most of these children become numb or depressed, feeling they have no one to talk with or to trust.

Likewise, their parents, suffering from fear, shock, and anger from having their children removed from their lives, usually slide into a state of despair and confusion. Most are overwhelmed and unable to picture a way out of their devastating circumstances.

A leading child care advocate in Atlanta recently said, “We take people who are typically suffering from a poverty mentality, whose priorities aren’t right in the first place, who are likely dealing with addictions of one kind or another, and then pile a heap of responsibilities on them and offer no support. No wonder so few succeed.”

Wade Horn, the highest ranking federal official in charge of foster care and a former child psychologist, says the current foster care system is a “giant mess” because there are no provisions for treatment, prevention, family support, or aging out (when young adults turn 18). He wants to rethink foster care on a national level. Knowing that a just society provides help for those willing to receive it, Compassion House was founded on the premise of “being life-giving to those who are not being helped.” Without such support, these children and parents will perpetuate generational patterns of familial devastation.

The Good News and Our Vision

“I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and for your good—to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Since Compassion House is the only facility available in Whitfield and Murray Counties where children can have a supervised visit with their parents once they have been placed in state custody, we see this as a wonderful opportunity to minister to families in ways that are truly life-changing.

The good news is that during this season of crisis, parents have the most incentive to make changes in their lives. That’s why we’re dedicated to matching their desire to improve themselves with family-saving resources.

Study after study has proven that the sooner comprehensive intervention services are provided, the better the chances are for families to be reunited. With this in mind, we are encouraged by the success of our cutting-edge programs and classes that help our families heal and then learn important skills:

Grief and Loss Recovery Workshops

Our Grief and Loss Recovery program offers participants access to crucial life skills that most haven’t received—practical techniques that help reconcile feelings of loss and change. There are more than 40 events that can create the range of human emotions called grief (including divorce, separation, death, job loss, foster care, loss of hope and health, etc). Whether the loss was recent or long ago, it may still be limiting one’s ability to fully embrace life. Grief and Loss Recovery techniques assist in the ultimate journey back to one’s heart and to see life in a positive way.

Nurturing Parenting Classes

These comprehensive 17-week classes are not just informational; our parents repeatedly declare these sessions are life changing. Topics Covered: Parenting Values, Role of Nurturing Parents, Character Development, How Labels Affect Our Self-Worth, Ages and Stages of Development, Understanding Feelings, Developing Family Rules, Problem Solving Skills, Stress Management Tools, Understanding and Expressing Anger, and more. In addition to receiving practical skills and information, participants are given hands-on opportunities to experience the program concepts, along with numerous illustrations to help them apply these proven parenting techniques.

Marriage Enrichment Classes

At Compassion House, we are dedicated to healing and restoring families. Harmony at home not only creates a loving atmosphere for a couple, but also makes for happier, more hopeful children. Obviously, parents who maintain a strong marriage bond are going to be a better model for their children. Mastering the Mysteries of Love is a hands-on, activity-based course where we teach healthy relationship enhancement skills for couples (married or otherwise). These proven techniques help couples build skills such as showing understanding, problem solving, and much more. By the end of the course, couples understand how to establish and maintain honesty, compassion, empathy, and trust in their relationship.

The Director of Mentoring, Linda Clark, a Grief Recovery Specialist, will be happy to help you see how you can have a huge impact! She offers training classes for those who want to be more equipped (or learn new practical skills). Maybe you and a friend would like to pair up to form a two-person mentoring team?

These children and their parents are truly at a crossroads in their lives. While there are no formal requirements for Mentors, we want mature men and women who, knowing that life has challenges, are willing to be a face and voice of hope.  

 

 

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Future Goals for Compassion House:

• Weekly visits for each child.

• Move to a larger facility. (Because we have visits all day and all evening, we have been forced to “borrow space” to teach some of our classes. Also, with a larger facility, we will be able to accommodate more visits and have rooms for private Grief Recovery sessions.

• More Mentors

• To have another full-time staff member. (Currently, only two of our staff members are full-time. Neither receives full benefits, and both work very long hours to make sure Compassion House runs smoothly. We need $40,000 to hire an excellent child and adult Grief Recovery Specialist who is already associated with our team.)

• Monthly donations of snacks/ diapers/toilet paper/paper towels.

• Toy donations. (With hundreds of children visiting each month, there is a lot of wear and tear on games and toys. Giving us your gently worn games and toys would be a blessing!

• Create Community Connections (with businesses and churches so that parents can find better jobs and become part of a church family if they so choose). Through such encounters parents and children can begin to model their lives on successful patterns. With continuous community support, positive change can be permanent.

• In-home follow up services are vital for families that have been reunified. At present, such services are extremely limited. Parents who have been successful in completing their case plans need to be supported through the challenging months of adjusting to being a family again.

The Costs:

An hourly cost of $35.25 per family includes administrative coordination, supervision, transportation, overhead, insurance, food, drinks, supplies, clerical assistance, and more. Since we operate on a bare bones basis, it would be impossible to provide these services for less. A projected annual budget of $300,000 will allow Compassion House to provide visitation and our other life-changing services to hundreds of children and families in Whitfield and Murray Counties.

* * *
Compassion House provides visitation services to families whose children are in foster care, regardless of age, religion, or ethnic background. Visitation services are also provided to other children in the community, such as court-appointed cases where parents are divorced or otherwise estranged. We know our classes and programs make a difference. Because parents in crisis are often struggling financially (many miss days of work because of the emotional stress, which very often leads to illness), the classes are provided at minimal or no cost.