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Dr. John Degarmo brings resources and training to Newton County parents
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Foster parents often grapple with substantial challenges, underscoring the critical necessity for essential training, support and resources. In response, Amerigroup Georgia has partnered with renowned foster care expert Dr. John DeGarmo, to offer free training sessions to foster parents across Georgia, with Saturday’s discussion in Newton County addressing mental health issues and related challenges affecting both parents and children. 

Health care leaders and foster care parents from across Newton County joined together to raise awareness and gather support for foster care initiatives. Dr. DeGarmo shared his personal experiences and insights, aiming to inspire and empower attendees. The event addressed the specific needs of the county’s foster care community and emphasized the importance of increased support services, enhanced training and mental health resources.

“Training foster parents is a vital investment in the well-being and future of children in foster care, equipping caregivers with the tools they need to provide stability, support and healing so that every child has the opportunity to thrive,” said Bhavini Solanki, Director of Georgia Families 360°. “We are proud to collaborate with Dr. DeGarmo, as he brings both expertise in offering these trainings alongside firsthand experience as a foster care parent, understanding the challenges of caring for vulnerable children.”   

Dr. DeGarmo, founder and director of The Foster Care Institute and a TEDx Talk speaker, has cared for more than 60 children alongside his wife as foster parents. Dr. DeGarmo emphasized the pressing importance of addressing mental health, stating, “The real pandemic right now is mental health, and foster parents need support services they're not currently receiving. The purpose of this event was to provide foster parents with the critical support they need to address trauma, burnout and stress.”  

National data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System reinforces the severity of the issue, indicating a significant shortage of licensed foster care homes in most states across the United States. Georgia, for instance, has seen a decline of almost 3,000 licensed homes since 2019, highlighting the need for immediate action.  

Foster parents frequently experience a lack of support, especially as the needs of youth in care change over time, necessitating additional resources. Through Dr. DeGarmo’s foster parent support network, Amerigroup Georgia aims to provide ongoing education and emotional support. The goal is to bolster the foster care community, creating a sustainable and growing network of caregivers. 

“We will continue to travel across the state, offering free training sessions on trauma-informed care and other essential topics, especially in areas of the state with limited community resources,” said DeGarmo. “We’ll also establish foster parent support groups in locations that don’t currently have groups in place. By empowering foster parents with knowledge and support, we can enhance retention and encourage more individuals to become foster parents." 

Foster parents who lack support in their local area and require additional resources are encouraged to reach out to their Amerigroup Care Coordinator to ensure they receive the assistance they need.  

Since 2014, Amerigroup has served as the sole CMO in charge of coordinating care for children, youth and young adults receiving adoption assistance, and select youth involved in the juvenile justice system through Georgia Families 360° (GF360). Covering approximately 32,000 children, Amerigroup is committed to working with foster families, community organizations, healthcare and social service providers and partners in state government to ensure these individuals have access to the right services in the right setting.