Foster kid resource in jeopardy 

In a state with such dismal funding for neglected children (the Division of Children and Family Services is woefully understaffed and hopelessly short on group home beds), you'd think Rachel Ewald would have an easier time doing her job.

Ewald is like a Home Depot for the 7,700 DFACS children farmed out to foster homes. She solicits, collects, warehouses and gives away the things that give a child comfort, from Osh Kosh to Tonka, Huggies to Hilfiger.

This year, Ewald expects 2,600 foster kids of all ages and from all parts of metro Atlanta to take home a bundle of clothes, toys and other sundries from the nonprofit agency she runs, Foster Care Support Foundation. That's a huge increase from the 800 children the foundation served in 2001, its first year of existence.

The foundation itself, however, is shrinking. It currently sits behind a few windows in a non-descript Roswell strip mall and recently lost more than half its reduced-rent space to a full-paying tenant. The state, whether it knows it or not, simultaneously lost a killer resource.

Each of the state's foster families (who collectively care for more than half of the 13,500 or so total children entrusted to DFACS' care) receives between $12 and $15 per day, per child to cover all child-rearing costs.

Ewald says she's heard from foster families who can no longer take babies because of the cost and who've given up teenagers because they couldn't feed them. "The economy will do the same for foster families," Ewald says, "as it will for any family."

Ramping up Ewald's organization (or at least returning its digs to their original size) is one way to help foster parents afford to keep children in their homes. But so far this year, the foundation has raised only $65,000 toward a $150,000 goal -- a sum that would allow Ewald to rent a sorting and intake center the size of the 5,000-square-foot space they lost in May.

"People can't afford to be foster parents because a third of the cost of that foster child is going to come out of your pocket," Ewald says. "More people are coming to us every day."

If you would like to volunteer or make a tax-deductible cash donation (or a donation of items the foundation desperately needs: new pajamas, socks and underwear, or toys for children over 5, contact Rachel Ewald at 770-641-9591, or visit www.fostercares.org.

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