FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2019
Agape House Children’s Home, Inc.
Attn: Melinda Gatheright
P.O. Box 10986 El Dorado, AR 71730
Phone # (870) 918-8709
Agape House Children’s Home, Inc. announces Close
Local Family-Style Foster Care Ministry becomes an unintended casualty of the Family First Prevention Services Act.
EL DORADO, ARKANSAS (February 1, 2019) – Since Agape House Children’s Home opened its doors in October 2015, it has been a loving home to thirty-two area foster children, allowing many sibling groups to remain together. However, due to new federal regulations, Agape House plans to close its doors and cease care for local foster children effective March 17, 2019.
"Watching so many children heal and thrive under our roof makes it all the more difficult to announce the closing of our ministry,” says Melinda Gatheright, Executive Director. “But enactment of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) passed in February 2018, eliminates congregate care even when it is a family-style program like ours with parents residing in the home.” The FFPSA places many requirements on states in order to receive federal funding for foster children, and only allows for placement of children in private family foster homes effective October 1, 2019. Agape House has already felt the effects of the Act with the reduced placements of children in their home as the state readies itself for the implementation deadline.
“As much as we are saddened by the decision to close,” says Gatheright, “without placements, we find ourselves without an opportunity to continue to serve as a Christian, family-style group foster home.”
Agape House has enjoyed a great partnership with the state's Department of Human Services and Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), working hand in hand to care for this area's foster children. "From day one of the enactment of the FFPSA, we have continued to work together with our county and state DCFS leaders to try to find a way for Agape House to continue its current ministry under the FFPSA. While both the state and our ministry have proposed many ideas, none have materialized into a solid option for us to remain open and meet the federal requirements thereby eliminating the opportunity for future placement of foster children with us. We applaud the state's efforts to find a niche in the FFPSA for us and ministries like ours to survive and continue to make such an important difference in children's lives. We acknowledge and appreciate those efforts," explains Gatheright.
On behalf of Agape House Children's Home, Gatheright thanks the community for the friendship and loving support it has shown foster children and their ministry. "We first thank God for the opportunity to know and love each of the thirty-two children we have cared for who have profoundly affected each one of us. We also thank all those who make up our Agape House family which includes our dedicated house parents, social worker, volunteers, tutors and mentors who have spent endless hours loving and caring for our kids. Finally, many thanks to our citizens, businesses, civic groups, local schools and churches, especially our Agape House family church, First Baptist Church of El Dorado, whose support made it possible for us to change the lives of our children.”
While Agape House will no longer have an opportunity to continue to serve area foster children, there are many others in the community left to champion for foster care including Arkansas’ Division of Children & Family Services, The CALL, Thirteenth South CASA, The South Arkansas Children's Coalition and several private foster homes. "We ask for prayer and support for these partners and encourage anyone who might have considered fostering privately in their home to pray for direction. With the closing of homes like Agape House and the constraints of the FFPSA, there will be more private foster homes needed than ever before," adds Gatheright. “Our biggest prayer request is for our existing foster children at Agape House who are losing a second family and need a tremendous amount of support as they transition from Agape House to their next placement.”
The Agape House Board of Directors will immediately begin exploring opportunities for how their campus might serve other non-profits or organizations supporting children and families in our area. "This community has a huge heart for taking care of its most vulnerable members who are children. We will be looking for ways to continue the momentum our donors have built and advance it forward to others who continue to serve children and families," explains Gatheright.