Embrace Alabama Kids providing hope while giving back to the Wiregrass

Embrace AL Kids has provided hope for over 130 years.
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 2:10 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Over the last 130 years Embrace Alabama Kids has worked to mend families. There is no end in sight to their mission of helping Alabama’s most vulnerable children and that’s what makes them this month’s Wiregrass Gives Back.

“You’re trying to break the cycle,” Lyndi Collier, the program manager for South Alabama foster care, said.

Embrace Alabama Kids is a statewide nonprofit ministry. They are on a mission to provide homes, healing and hope to children coming from families in crisis.

“You tend to parent the way you were parented and if you were not parented in a positive way, then what you’re doing is you’re just in turn just perpetuating that generationally,” Collier said. “And so what the goal we’re trying to do is to try and intervene, teach people good skills, like you do anything else. You learn to bake a cake, you know, you are following a recipe, when we’re doing this, we’re trying to teach these parents how to follow a recipe so to speak on how to parent their children in a positive way so they in turn won’t turn to drugs or won’t turn to poor relationship choices or all the things that cause families to become disruptive.”

They provide help to families in need by offering foster care, adoption services, family preservation, higher education and school readiness, programs as free services.

“All of our staff are very passionate about the work that we do,” Collier said.

That includes Collier who has been working for the organization for 25 years and has changed numerous lives for the better.

“I love what I do,” Collier said. “I love my foster parents; I love the kids.”

Luke Powell, the director of North Alabama contract programs, agrees with Collier.

“We really like to go over and beyond for all of the people we serve,” Powell said. “Even if it’s for a short period of time. We want them to remember what we did for them, no matter how long we’ve served them, years from now.”

All children and families served are selected by DHR referrals.

“The goal is to prevent kids from coming into care through those services and if they come into care, to help teach them what they need to know so their children can return home and be safe,” Collier said.

This organizations focus is to keep families together.

“If DHR has to do a removal, then we want those kids to be able to go back home because all kids deserve to be with their families,” Collier said.

Staff is on call to families 24/7, providing intensive services.

“We visit with our families’ multiple times a week,” Powell said. “Most of our families get two visits a week, some are one visit a week. So, we have the time and resources to do that with our families versus DHR is roughly once a month which they have a lot more cases than we do. But we have the time and resources and energy to put into those families.”

Collier said there are never enough foster homes and right now a lot of homes are needed in the southeast Alabama area.

“What happens is when DHR calls and they need a home for a three-year-old child, I have to look at my list and see, ‘Do I even have a home open for a three-year-old child?’ And I may not,” Collier said. “We need some stay-at-home parents because day care is at a crisis right now in this area because of COVID, we have a lot of people that are just no longer in the day care business and we are struggling in that area.”

Collier stresses that perfection is not required to be a foster parent.

“People think they have to be perfect parents to be foster parents, and we are not looking for perfect parents,” Collier said. “There are no perfect parents.”

But this is an essential quality they look for in foster parents:

“Just being able to have the ability to just take as step back and see the humor in all of the situations is what really carries our foster parents through and just not taking yourself too seriously,” Collier said.

Foster parents must be able to provide a safe and clean environment, no matter if they live in an apartment, mobile home or house.

“Most of these kids are just coming from families in crisis with the drug epidemic a lot of kids are in environments that are not safe and so they need a stable and safe place to call home,” Collier said.

If you have interest in becoming a foster parent, but aren’t sure what to do, getting the right information can be the first step.

“Having a conversation can go a long way,” Powell said.

The organization also offers other ways to help support foster care without being a full-time foster parent.

“One of those ways would be respite parents which would typically weekend, but it can be different times or longer than that but most of the time it’s a weekend stay,” Powell said.

Other ways to get involved include sponsoring a child during Christmas, donating school supplies, providing meals and even birthday cakes and/or cards for children. Collier said a small task can go a long way.

Click here if you are interested in becoming a foster parent or would like to help Embrace Alabama Kids.

Click here to contact Embrace Alabama Kids.

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