Elks Aidmore expands into Newton with foster care program

CONYERS -- Elks Aidmore of Conyers is expanding services to include a therapeutic fostering program that will reach into Newton County.

Elks Aidmore finalized an agreement with the Georgia Department of Human Services to provide foster care services in the Conyers, Covington and Athens areas, with plans to expand into Valdosta in the spring.

"This is an exciting time for Elks Aidmore and we are grateful that the Georgia Department of Human Services has allowed us to expand our services to fill an unmet need. Since 2007, half of Georgia's providers have closed their doors and we are fully committed to providing services and filling some of the voids created by the closures," said Elks Aidmore's CEO Abe Wilkinson.

The Specialized Foster Care Program differs from traditional foster care in that families are specially trained to be foster parents to children with emotional and behavioral problems, said Dawn Robinson Butler, development director for Elks Aidmore.

"We decided nobody in our area really is focusing on that," Butler said. "There are other agencies, but there is still a need for more support in that particular area."

The program is part of a shift from a focus on residential- to community-based services. Elks Aidmore still offers residential treatment for adolescents at its Morrison Road location in Conyers, but following a staff reduction in 2009, has broadened its scope.

The program serves children age 5 to 17, though the majority of placements are 10 and older. Most have histories of physical and/or sexual abuse and neglect.

Some have contact with their birth families and some return home, while others remain in the program until age 18 and then move into Elks Aidmore's Independent Living Program. While in the foster program, a family consultant acts as a liaison with the foster parents and the child to make sure all needs are met.

Prospective foster parents go through a lengthy approval process and are required to undergo mandatory training each year, Butler said. Families interested in participating can contact Jackie Jordan at 770-483-3535, ext. 33.

Located on 141 acres in Conyers, Elks Aidmore provides a residential program on-site that includes GED and vocational training; individual, group and family therapy; health and wellness classes; life and job skills development; along with a transitional living program for older youths; a non-residential program aimed at keeping high-risk youths with their families; and the foster care program.

For more information, visit www.elksaidmore.com.