A Foster Care Crisis in Gaston County

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by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Billy Carrier

GASTONIA, N.C. - Susanna Kavanaugh is a woman on a mission.  Her family is one of 49 licensed fosters in Gaston County.  But there are about 200 kids in need.  Kavanaugh says, "I believe there's a shortage because people aren't aware of the need."  She says other obstacles are the economy and general misconceptions about fostering.  "I think it's more an emotional commitment than anything," says Kavanaugh.

Kids in Gaston County also need Guardian ad Litems: volunteers who advocate for children in court and beyond.  "You find another side of the world that most of us don't even know exists when you learn about these kids' backgrounds, their difficulties and problems they're dealing with," says Tony Giacobbe.  He has been a Guardian ad Litem in Gaston County for eight years.  His time commitment is minimal - only about eight hours a week - but the impact?  "You can make a tremendous difference in a child's life," says Giacobbe.

The process to become a foster or Guardian ad Litem is thorough.  There are criminal history checks, interviews and training but there are no educational or professional requirements.  "They (foster and Guardians) come from all backgrounds," says Joanne Cranke.  She is the Guardian ad Litem District Administrator.  Cranke says all you need is a passion for kids, curiosity about their lives and the ability to stay committed.  "We want you to follow through because a lot of people have left these children," she says.

Kavanaugh and her husband are currently fostering their second child.  She admits the work is often thankless and hard, but necessary.  she says, "Your first foster always breaks your heart. but where else are they gonna go?"

In addition to fostering, Kavanaugh has created an organization called Least of These Gaston (www.leastofthesegaston.org).  It's holding an awareness event June First in downtown Gastonia.  Country singer Jimmy Wayne will perform and tell his foster story.  For more information about the event, go to https://www.facebook.com/LeastofTheseNC?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline.

For additional information about fostering and the Guardian ad Litem programs in our area, go to www.nccourts.org/citizens/gal/ or email GAL@nccourts.org

More Contact Information:

Gaston County Guardian ad Litem Program
704-852-3298 (for Cheri McKinney) or 704-852-3299 (for Kevin Proctor, Program Supervisor)
Facebook: NC Guardian ad Litem Program Gaston County
 
Cleveland County Guardian ad Litem Program
704-476-7821 (for Dawn Stover, Program Supervisor) or 704-476-7880 (for Kelsie Costner, Program Supervisor)
 
Lincoln County Guardian ad Litem Program
704-742-7821 (for Ann Killian, Program Supervisor)

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