Advocates for Children is a non-profit organization based in Cartersville that serves at-risk youth and families that have been abused, neglected, sexually exploited, or who have run away and are homeless. In 1985, the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter (FBCS) program was started with a goal “to provide safe and stable housing for these youth in the community by partnering with (non-abusive) parents, relatives, foster parents, and adoptive families, while maintaining community ties.”
Today, the shelter serves 13 children, ages 10 to 18 years old. FBCS provides 24–hour care 365 days a year. Dedicated staff members provide youth with informed case management services, individual and family counseling, youth development activities, social and independent living skills, and assistance with achieving a high school diploma, GED, and college entrance.
At FBCS, the children’s safety is of the utmost priority, but because of COVID-19, the program faces many new challenges. In March, the facility implemented a quarantine period of two weeks, per CDC guidelines. Upon arrival, staff members checked their temperature and were required to wear masks at all times for the duration of their shift. While assisting the children with their virtual learning, social distancing had to be maintained. After the initial two–week period, Governor Brian Kemp ordered a shelter in place for a month, extending the children’s isolation further.
The two–month period of isolation caused a massive disruption to the daily routine of the youth residing in the shelter. Emily Spruill, the shelter’s case manager, stated that “one of the biggest challenges was to keep children active and entertained while indoors. The shelter underwent a two–week quarantine period, and right after that, they had to shelter in place until May. This meant that staff had to come up with outlets for children all day, every day. Staff burnout was a big concern.”
Another concern is the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on FBCS. With the children out of school and at the shelter 24 hours a day, the cost for food, utilities, and program supplies have all increased. While the community stepped up in many ways, FBCS cannot currently accept “used items” as donations in an attempt to prevent contamination inside the facility. However, the facility can accept donations of meals and cleaning supplies, which will help keep the children fed and safe.
When asked what else the community can do for FBCS, Dawn Landrum, the Shelter Manager responded, “It is our responsibility to keep residents safe. For this reason, we have continued to follow recommendations from the CDC, disinfecting our facility regularly and maintaining our children’s isolation for the most part.
All these changes have come with unanticipated costs that were not budgeted for our shelter. Anyone who would like to help us overcome the effects of COVID-19 can make monetary donations, or visit our website to donate food and supplies for our shelter and learn which items are needed more urgently.”