The Isaiah 117 house at the Chambliss Center will be a refuge for children entering foster care

Children entering Hamilton County’s foster care system will soon have a greater place of refuge while waiting to be placed in foster care.

In June, officials at the Chambliss Children’s Center opened Isaiah 117 House, a network of transitional shelters intended to bridge the gap between the parental home from which at-risk children are removed and the foster home that awaits them.

The Isaiah 117 house at the Chambliss Center will not simply be a temporary family shelter. It will be a place where children are “geneously loved, said Rachel Froug Carroll, communications coordinator for Chambliss.

“If they need a bath or a shower, if they need food, if they need alone time or want to bake cookies or play a game, this house is there to show them that they are not alone, that they are supported and that it is not their fault,” she says.

While most locals may never see the interior of the house, Froug Carroll says she believes the model will have “a lasting impact for years to come” for at-risk children in the area. Chattanooga.

Here are five things to know about the new facility, which is expected to be completed in early 2023.

1. The name of the refuge is inspired by a biblical verse. Part of Isaiah 1:17 is a challenge to “advocate for orphans”. In an online story, founder and director Ronda Paulson says she believes “that’s what God calls me to do” with Isaiah 117 Houses. His vision was “a house with a girl’s room, a boy’s room, a fully equipped bathroom, a playroom, a nursery, etc.” staffed with volunteers on call to welcome “”the least of them” when they need love the most”.

2. Isaiah 117 Homes is based in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Since the flagship home opened in 2018, the network has expanded to five more states (Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Texas, and Georgia).

The six existing homes in Tennessee also include the Bradley-Polk County facility, which opened in Cleveland on October 17, 2021. Another 13 homes are either under construction or “raising awareness” for future construction, including facilities being constructed to serve Coffee- Franklin-Grundy and Monroe-McMinn counties.

A total of 26 Tennessee counties would be covered by the Isaiah 117 network. Georgia’s home would be in Union County (Blairsville).

Froug Carroll says feedback from Bradley-Polk case managers has been positive. “They are so grateful that this program exists,” she says. “They say it changes the way we do foster care.”

Photo gallery

Isaiah 117 House in Chambliss Center

3. Homes work hand in hand with other child protection agencies. Social workers from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and its Division of Child Protective Services, who investigate reports of abuse or neglect, are the first line of defense for at-risk children.

“This partnership [between agencies] will only get stronger because we are also there for social workers,” says Froug Carroll. “The day of withdrawal is horribly traumatic for the children, but it’s also stressful for the case manager. It will be a safe space for DCS workers to come in and do their jobs.”

4. Isaiah 117 Houses are designed to relieve anxiety. In keeping with Paulson’s original vision, the homes have an open and inviting floor plan, along with small touches, such as fluffy pillows, fluffy blankets, and toys, that convey warmth and welcome. Froug Carroll describes it as a “trauma-informed design” intended to put worried children at ease. “They can see what’s in front of them as soon as they open the door,” she says.

Further in the house are bedrooms (separated by gender), bathrooms, laundry rooms and offices for social workers. Upstairs is “a giant room for storage,” says Froug Carroll. The Hamilton County home will also have a separate visiting area where children living in foster care can spend time with their parents. A playground awaits children outside.

Currently, entry into the foster care system usually takes place in a social worker’s booth inside a DCS office.

5. Homes are also more responsive to the needs of foster families. This “giant room” upstairs will be filled with everything from car seats to toothbrushes to school backpacks, says Froug Carroll.

Liz Blasbery, executive director of residential services at Chambliss Center, says having access to such deep resources also helps ease the anxiety of foster families, who may be called in at odd hours without notice of the immediate needs of the host. ‘child. Having necessities on standby prevents adoptive parents from “scrambling for supplies.”

“Do you need diapers? Do you need formula? Do you need extra outfits or pajamas? Do you need a portable crib? We want to do everything we can to make this transition easier,” says Blasbery.

“It’s really difficult to have foster families,” adds Frug Carroll. “So whether we call them at 3 a.m. or 1 p.m., they will know that the children who have been to Isaiah 117 House will have new clothes, they will have a shower and treatment for lice. , and they’ll be good to go. We want to make it easy for foster parents to have what they need to support the children they’re fostering,” she says.

CELEBRATING 150 YEARS

The Chambliss Children’s Center has a long tradition.

Last year, Phil Acord, President and CEO, celebrated half a century with the organization. On November 11, he retired, 50 years to the day after starting to work for Chambliss.

To replace him, the board appointed 16-year-old employee Katie Harbison, who started in 2022 – a monumental year for the centre, marking its 150th anniversary.

To celebrate, several special programs and events are planned for this fall.

For example, Chambliss is currently looking for story submissions from the community – happy memories or meaningful experiences related to the center – to highlight in its newsletter, on social media or at its next festival. fall festival, the official “birthday party”.

The festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 23 at the centre, 315 Gillespie Road. It will be free to the public and will feature tours of the 17-acre campus, kids’ activities and more. Other VIP events are also in the works, including an official launch party for the Isaiah 117 house.

Get full event details at chamblisscenter.org.