by: J.B. Weisenfels
I’ve known Emily Treadaway for more than twenty years. We were in the same grade in the same small school district, the kind of place where it’s impossible not to know almost everybody at least in passing. I remember Emily as wholesome, but effortlessly cool, too.
Our paths have diverged and left us in very different places. As I complete my Masters of Fine Arts, Emily has become the new Assistant County Coordinator for the Call in Crawford and Sebastian Counties.
You may be asking yourself if you’re supposed to know what the Call is. No need to Google, dear readers, for I am going to tell you about it. The Call is based in churches, and they work to connect people in congregations with ways to support foster families, with an eye toward opening more foster homes in Arkansas. The organization partners with the Department of Child and Family Services to provide much-needed reinforcement to the overburdened system.
That is not to undervalue what the people at DCFS are doing—their work is hard, necessary, and complex. The good people at DCFS are laboring tirelessly to do their very best for kids, but the numbers are overwhelming. This is especially true in Sebastian and Crawford Counties.
At the time of this writing, Sebastian County alone has 763 kids in foster care. That’s 763 kids who have been traumatized, displaced, and further traumatized by continued displacements. When foster homes are unsupported or overburdened, they are forced to close. When that happens, the children in that home must suffer more displacement piled onto their initial traumas, all of that compiled into lives that often result in bleak outcomes.
Study after study has proven that children who spend time in foster care are statistically more likely to have their own children placed into foster care. The foster care system, for some families, becomes a generational problem—a problem that breeds more problems until the scale of the thing is truly staggering. It’s the kind of stark situation that makes one begin to wonder what can be done and why, exactly, we are not all doing it.
The Call in Sebastian and Crawford Counties has had some success. They’ve seen over fifty children adopted into loving, forever families, and they’ve opened lots of foster homes as well. More than that, they’ve met needs for people who are already taking care of children. Imagine if your family suddenly doubled in size. It’s the Call that shows up with diapers and a bassinet. It’s the Call that offers respite for stressed out foster parents. The Call asks area churches what their individual congregations do best, and those congregations provide the best help they can.
When Emily Treadaway speaks about these issues, the passion is all over her face. It brings her to tears sometimes, and in her own words, she is “not an emotional girly-girl.” She is a member of the Junior League and a member of the River Valley Roller Girls, another meeting of two traits: wholesome, and effortlessly cool.
But Emily is more than that. She is fighting on the front lines to correct a seemingly unsolvable problem, and she is doing it with a ferocity that few can conjure. Her work with the Call is as important as it is daunting. In the words of Meg Scott, the woman who has overseen her work to open more homes and support existing foster families, “We need more Emilies, and then we’ll be fine.”
It is Emily’s view that it is the responsibility of churches to protect these children and support those who house them. I would argue that it is also our duty as a community to keep children in need protected from a wide world that may harm them. For if we learn anything as we age, we know this: the world is wild and danger lurks, especially for the most vulnerable in our society.
Foster kids need us, they need a full community on their sides, and the Call is a partial answer to their calls for help. You can learn more about the Call, including how you can get involved, by visiting thecallinarkansas.org.