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Fostering Families: Elks Aidmore meets needs of children

Valdosta Daily Times - 2/1/2021

Jan. 31—VALDOSTA — Though Elks Aidmore Therapeutic Foster Care has existed for more than 80 years, the agency has operated its Valdosta location since March 2014.

Elks offers a case manager known as a family consultant to foster children and a case manager to the foster home known as a recruitment coordinator.

"At Elks, we work not only with foster children but foster children with higher needs," Zachary Howard, recruitment coordinator, said. "This can be physical disabilities but usually is mental disabilities, such as autism, (post-traumatic stress disorder), bipolar disorder and many others. We also work with kids who are developmentally delayed, as well."

Howard has been with Elks since May 2019 after working with the company in his previous role with the Lowndes County Department of Family and Children Services.

"I loved Elks Aidmore's hands-on approach with their kids where they work hand in hand with their community providers and spend a lot of time with each kid," he said.

As a recruitment coordinator, Howard serves the needs of foster parents by assisting them through training and connecting them with community partners. He locates people who can be trained to be foster parents, he said.

Monica Wynn, family consultant, sees the other side of Elks. She's been with the company for more than two years.

Wynn is responsible for helping foster children and their families with academic, therapeutic and medical needs.

She called herself an advocate for her clients. She makes home visits regularly and provides around-the-clock support, she said.

"Elks addresses the therapeutic needs of youth and families in crisis," Wynn said. "The staff, families and children are family oriented. Our mission is to provide youth and families in crisis with the necessary skills and resources to help heal their hearts, restore their hopes and rebuild their lives."

She said the business' most significant asset is its ability to place children "with higher needs" locally. To do this, she said Elks partners with local DFCS agencies.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way Elks operates. It has moved to virtual platforms with staff using constant video chatting and phone calls to communicate with clients.

Howard said Elks speaks with therapists, teachers and psychiatrists to ensure needs are met.

Wynn said behavior aides and community liaison workers assist, as well.

"With so many individuals and families in quarantine and isolation, we remain committed to providing quality services to the children and youth in our care," she said.

Through the pandemic, Elks secured re-accreditation from the Council on Accreditation.

"They go through and audit all of our policies, files and practices to make sure that we are operating at our peak efficiency and that we are continuing to meet all required policies and guidelines to earn that accreditation," Howard said. "This means we are approved to operate with COA approval for another four years and continue to meet their standards."

Elks Aidmore is located at 3312-A N. Oak St. Ext.

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