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Photos Andy Calvert

Staff and residents of the Open Door Children’s Home were excited to visit Ridge Ferry Park on Friday. For months, the COVID-19 pandemic left residents unable to participate in many of their usual activities, so the field trip was a much-needed break. The youth and staff had a picnic lunch and played games such as badminton, cornhole and volleyball.

“The kids haven’t gotten to play like that for a while,” Richards said. “It was nice getting outside.”

The Open Door Children’s Home operates two facilities in Rome, offering long-term and short-term care for children and youth who have experienced child abuse and neglect. Each facility, one for boys and one for girls, has the capacity to house up to 20 children. The homes provide a safe place for these youth to live, as well as guidance on education, independent living skills, and more.

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(Left to Right) Shakeila McCluskey, Candice Spivey, Carman Gibson

Field trips are a part of the home’s regular programming. Open Door tries to provide opportunities for the youth to get out of the house and have fun, often partnering with community organizations for activities in the area.

“We love partnering and collaborating with local things like the ECO Center or maybe CRBI,” Richards says. “People donate [to activities] to ensure that the youth have a good time and enjoy being who they are.”

A lot of planning goes into these field trips, according to Richards. Open Door staff have to plan around the kids’ scheduled appointments and activities, make sure there is food to pack for lunch and collaborate with local organizations to find places to go. The logistics of planning these trips have been especially complicated during the pandemic, Open Door Executive Director Tracie Ball says.

Jessica Richards
(Left to Right) Kimberly Allerton, Thomasina Garrett
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“It’s been challenging to make sure that we’re keeping everybody safe,” Ball says. “We want to make sure that, wherever we’re taking them off-site, they’re taking precautions.”

The pandemic has posed other complications for the home as well. According to Ball, Open Door had to increase spending for food and staff once schools closed in March.

“The kids were in school one day, and then they weren’t,” Ball says. “Because we have certain staffing ratios, we had to make sure that we were staffed correctly during times when normally they would be in school.”

Open Door staff also worked diligently to help keep the youth entertained during the months of staying home. The kids participated in online school in the mornings, and in the afternoon they enjoyed art projects, sports or video games. Richards and Ball were both impressed by the way the youth adapted to the new situation.

“The kids are so resilient,” Ball says. “They really have done so well in adjusting.”

Stay tuned for a feature on the Open Door Home in an upcoming issue of V3. For more information, visit opendoorhome.org or find them on Facebook.