StepStone foster services opens new location in LaGrange

Published 9:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2021

StepStone Family and Youth Services officially opened its Region 4 location in LaGrange on Wednesday.

Now the foster care agency, branded under BrightSpring Health Services, is ready to bring in much-needed services for the region’s children and families.

“We’re moving into where the greatest need is, and that’s Region 4,” said Christina Bach, the Georgia regional foster care director. “The focus in this county, and in this region, is to place them together. We saw the need, and we rose to meet the need of all the children being removed in this region and not enough homes. There are a lot of children who have to be placed outside the region because there are not enough homes in the region.”

StepStone Family & Youth Services assists children and families by supporting foster care and adoption services, a variety of parent education and counseling solutions, child care, in-home services and disability determination services.

LaGrange’s location is StepStone’s fifth location in Georgia and consists of five employees in total.

The agency partners with people in the community who open their homes to children in need of alternative, safer living environments.

Most are typical children with typical needs for care and support, but the agency also serves young people with emotional and behavioral issues or other special physical or mental needs.

Child placing agencies in Region 4 are in a group with the Division of Family & Children Services and all the referrals for children in the region are sent out to its providers, Bach explained. 

In Georgia, about 13,000 children are in need of foster care services, she said, and 40 to 50% of those children are in need of adoptive placements. There are three types of foster placement the agency focuses on: foster-only, foster-to-adopt and adopt-only.

“We look at about half of those children at any given time never returning home, and so we have a huge need,” she said. “There is not enough of all three of those categories in Region 4 right now.

Specifically, StepStone has a focus on children with special needs and works to find foster parents who can take them in, as well as any siblings they have. The agency assists children from newborns to age 21, and children with special needs can be placed in homes on a permanent basis.

“It’s not just if there’s [plenty] of homes, but whether those homes are the right fit for those children being removed in this region,” Bach said.

Last year, StepStone dealt with over 500 children who needed placement. Currently, the agency receives 20 to 30 referrals for foster placement a week.

In the midst of the pandemic, StepStone was able to continue its services, and even changed its format to virtually train, license and recruit new foster parents. These practices still continue, though the LaGrange agency is able to recruit potential foster parents in person now.

Those interested in applying to be foster parents can contact StepStone at its 325 Greenville St. location.

“It’s really one step at a time that can change a child’s life, and though the problem seems huge … our children are our future. Every time you change a child’s life, you change the future,” Bach said.