By Ed Brock
William Wright and Simone Baxendale-Wright know what it's like to have a childhood marred by the pain of abuse.
Now they want to ease that pain for other children by becoming foster parents for the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services.
At the beginning of Tuesday's "State of the Children" breakfast held by DFCS agencies in five different counties, the Riverdale couple watched a video of country music singer Collin Raye's song "Eleventh Commandment." The song, a public service announcement for Childhelp USA, tells the story of children suffering from various kinds of abuse or neglect.
"Everything that video told about, I went through that," Wright said.
But in time Wright pulled his life together and built a small fortune in real estate, even helping Baxendale-Wright overcome her childhood baggage. Now she's a teacher and they live in a beautiful house but have no children of their own.
"We would like to have somebody else to share with and show that you can have a positive life," Baxendale-Wright said.
That's the spirit that DFCS heads in Clayton, Henry, Douglas, Fayette and Fulton County are counting on.
"We are here today to cry help," Georgia Department of Human of Resources Regional Adoption Coordinator Jessie Swan said in opening the breakfast ceremonies. "We need you. We are bursting at the seams with children who need placement."
The breakfast was held at the Atlanta Airport Marriott hotel in College Park and nearly 100 people attended, including DFCS employees and others.
In Clayton County there are 498 children in foster care, but only 123 foster homes.
"We're sending children to placements far away from our home county because we can't find placement here," said Clayton County DFCS Director Cathy Ratti at the breakfast. "There are loving foster parents all over Georgia but we need to keep our children in our community."
Henry County DFCS Director Phyllis Shrader also spoke and said the situation in her county is just as drastic.
"We're dying in Henry County," Shrader said. "We have 325 children in foster care and only 44 foster homes. That is a very difficult situation in Henry County."
It has come to the point recently that Henry County DFCS workers have been sleeping at the office to watch over foster children who could not be placed elsewhere, Shrader said.
She added that the number of children referred for foster care is rising in Henry County due primarily to the county's increasing population, and more and more of the children are coming from families broken by drug addiction.
Henry County needs more foster parents, Shrader said. They aren't alone, DHR Office of Adoptions Recruitment Manager Deborah Burrus said.
"The needs are the same in all 159 counties in Georgia," Burrus said. "We need foster parents in all of those counties."
While the primary goal of DFCS is to eventually reunited children in foster care with their families, when that is not possible they must find people who are willing to adopt the child permanently. Wright said his wife and he have considered adopting a foster child as well.
"This is not a selfish venture," Wright said. "That's a possibility as time goes by because this is not a selfish venture."
The Georgia Department of Human Resources will hold a Foster Care and Adoption Fair on April 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Peachtree Peddlers Flea Market at 155 Mill Road in McDonough. For more information call (888) 460-2467 or go to www.adoptions.dhr.state.ga.us.