HopeTree Family Services, a provider of mental and behavioral health services, is addressing the need for safe placements for children in foster care with the unveiling of temporary housing for displaced children.
During ribbon cutting and open house earlier this month, guests were able to tour the building that will serve as a stopgap for those children unable to find immediate placement in a foster home.
HopeTree said there is a significant shortage of foster homes, kinship family placements and staffed beds in group homes and residential treatment centers. When a child in foster care is displaced, it noted, a social worker or law enforcement personnel must stay overnight with the child. This adds to the stress of an exhausted workforce.
Over a six-month period in 2021, 163 children, ranging in age 7-17 years old, in foster care were displaced for at least one night in unsuitable sleeping arrangements.
Working with the Roanoke City and Roanoke County Departments of Social Services, HopeTree is renovating Titmus Cottage, located on its Salem campus, to house such children when there is not a foster family readily available.
These efforts, HopeTree noted, align with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s initiative outlined in the Foster Care Safe And Sound Task Force Work Plan that launched on April 1.
In total, the cottage will have four bedrooms to accommodate up to eight children until a more permanent placement can be arranged. The average length of stay will vary depending on factors such as available homes or arrangement. Many children may only need a bed for one night, although some have waited 10 or days more to find a suitable placement.
“We are excited to partner with Roanoke County and Roanoke City DSS to utilize Titmus Cottage as a hospitable option when an appropriate placement is not possible,” said Jon Morris, president and CEO of HopeTree. “It can be traumatic when a child is displaced, so we will continue to collaborate with DSS and other partners to ensure that those children who need a safe place to stay can find one as soon as possible.”
The need for this building is so great that HopeTree started housing displaced children Nov. 11. Although currently limited to children within Roanoke and Roanoke County, other localities have been inquiring about placement availability.
Efforts to update and stock Titmus Cottage included a number of purchases for the building to be move-in ready. These items included: a new roof, windows, carpeting, furniture, linens, hygiene products and food.
Many of these items were obtained through donations.
“We have committed supporters helping us achieve the financial needs for the project,” explained Lisa Clause, chief advancement officer of HopeTree. “By investing in the future hope of HopeTree, these groups are helping us remedy this community crisis. We thank them for making this home a reality.”
Attendees included representatives from Roanoke City Department of Social Services, Roanoke County Department of Social Service, the office of Del. Joseph McNamara, the office of Del. Sam Rasoul, Elevation Church, Molina Healthcare and officials from Salem.
-The Salem Times-Register