A local nonprofit conceived by a foster parent and former teacher strives to improve the foster care experience for the children involved, their biological parents and those who foster kids in need.
For the Sake of One was established by Angela Coston and her husband, a local school administrator. Angela, who is a foster parent, said the non-profit seeks to "wrap around the entire foster care community" and in some cases, prevent a family's involvement in the system at all.
Angela, who is a member of Beech Street Baptist Church, said the program's concept has been evolving for several years. The organization now boasts a "Blessing Boutique" which offers gently used and donated items to foster parents, children in the foster care system and families at risk of becoming involved in the foster care system.
Angela said the non-profit focuses on five areas including the caseworkers who work long hours in the foster care and Child Protective Services systems.
"They are so overworked and underpaid and their work is extremely stressful," Angela said. "Nine shifts a month they have to spend the night at the office with children because there are not enough places for them."
A second area the non-profit endeavors to address involves the support and encouragement of the biological families whose children are at risk of being placed in foster care or who are attempting to make the changes necessary for family reunification.
Recruiting foster and adoptive parents is another goal. Angela laments that there is a great need for foster parents in the counties served by For the Sake of One: Bowie County and Cass County in Texas and Miller County and Little River County in Arkansas.
Supporting the families who foster children is a target of the organization, as well. Nights out for foster parents to give them a short break is one way they help.
Each month a three-hour night out gives foster parents a chance to refuel. Volunteers interested in helping with this activity must undergo a background check. "Foster families need support on an ongoing basis," she said. "We are recruiting non foster families who will commit to bringing meals, helping when a new child comes into the home and praying for the foster family."
Mentoring biological parents is another aim of For the Sake of One.
"We partner with churches in the Texarkana area that provide six-week-long parenting classes. The church commits to providing transportation, childcare, a meal and mentors for the biological parents," the organization's website states. "We also offer bio parent support groups once a month that are led by a local counselor. We invite volunteers who would like to attend these meetings and connect with the bio parents as a mentor." Angela said she is excited about the recent addition of a social worker to the For Sake of One program.
"Our goal is to work with families who have new babies that are struggling.," Angela said. "Many should have been or were in the foster care system and don't know how to raise children. So many don't have any kind of support system whatsoever. We want to build those families up and prevent any abuse or neglect from ever happening."
(For information about volunteering, donating or receiving services from For the Sake of One, visit their website forthesakeofone.com or call 903-329-0566. The office is located at 422 Hickory Street in Texarkana, Arkansas.)