By Mark Millican
CHATSWORTH — One of the teens at MountainView Boys Group Home has dreams of going to college, but there is a more pressing need after graduation from Murray County High in 2010 — taking care of his ailing grandmother.
MountainView and Cherokee Estates, its “sister facility” for girls in Whitfield County, serve as full-time residential care homes for children who have been taken out of abuse and neglect situations. They are two of the five homes in the state operated by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.
Attendees at a Chatsworth-Murray County Rotary Club meeting on Thursday learned there are currently five boys at MountainView, so named for its spectacular view of Fort Mountain. At its opening in 2006 the home was at capacity with 10, but changes in policy at the state Department of Human Resources have given group homes a lower profile, officials said.
“The state has been pushing foster homes as a priority for kids who need to be taken out of their family home, for whatever reason,” said Glenda Fisher, the office manager at Cherokee Estates. “So group homes are sometimes not the first choice. In fact, the state has mandated that a child under 12 must have a waiver signed by a (Division of Family and Children Services) case worker that says they have exhausted all other resources for placing that child. The only exception is keeping siblings together.”
Still, Murray Countians have embraced the residents of MountainView, said Tiffany Hammontree, the home’s social services coordinator.
“The support of the community has not just been in the big things, but in the little things,” she said. “We’ve never had to ask for anything — it’s just been there.”
Murray Countians give $1.69 per resident, say officials with Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes. Last year Sheriff Howard Ensley, who is on the MountainView board of directors, played “a major role in fundraising, promoting and assisting” the local home, a news release said, receiving a plaque as one of the top 10 fundraisers in the state.
“It’s all about the kids,” Ensley said. “The community has come together in a major way to support these children who are having a tough go of it, taking care of them like they’re our own. Their needs are met just like any other kid going through childhood.”
Murray County manager Tom Starnes is also a member of the board and said the facility is “not an orphanage” but provides a family environment.
“It’s more like home to the boys,” he said. “More services are available, like tutoring in their schoolwork and the opportunity to get involved with extracurricular activities like clubs at school and team sports.”
Matt and Bridget Ray from the Cleveland, Tenn., area have been group home parents at MountainView since early September. Matt had experience at Bachman Academy in McDonald, Tenn.
“It’s been a really wonderful experience,” said Bridgett. “We feel like we’re being truly able to minister to young people who need help. The boys have adjusted to us well.”
Several churches and civic groups have stepped forward to provide funding, clothing and other needs like toiletries, games and sports equipment. For more information, call Fisher at (706) 259-8581.
By Mark Millican
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