January 19, 2018 - The First United Methodist Church (FUMC) of Center Angel Tree Program had many recipients this past Christmas who may not have otherwise had as enjoyable of a holiday.
Helping to deliver gifts gathered on behalf of the Angel Tree were Child Protective Services (CPS) representatives for the Shelby County area.
According to Karen Jones, FUMC Pastor, 58 children in foster care, or under CPS care, were recipients of gifts delivered by CPS representatives. A lot of the children are from Shelby County, but may even have been residing in another larger city when they were delivered.
"We deal with children that have already been removed from their home of origin, and those children are placed in foster care," said Sonya Holman, CPS Supervisor. "Those are the particular children that are from Shelby County and the Angel Tree Program helped us provide Christmas to those individuals."
Holman explained the children in foster homes receive gifts in those homes; however, that isn't usually the same as someone might get in their own home.
"They were able to give us things and provide them with a couple good gifts that they would have gotten when they were at home, so we're grateful for that," said Holman.
Jones stated the Angel Tree Program was coordinated for the church by Jo Watson, and the program even had a little extra help from the Shelby County Attorney.
"We worked through Gary Rholes," said Jones. "I had drawn the little 5-year-old girl, she was the same age as my granddaughter and she just wanted blinged clothes, that was more fun. We had four little boys that were not taken and I said, 'I'll go buy for those,' and Gary [Rholes] sent me money and so I just went crazy buying for them, it was great fun."
Holman stated it went really well as some counties aren't even able to provide much for the children. She described some of what the people in her unit are responsible for overseeing.
She said they're called the conservatorship unit within CPS, and she explained that means foster care. According to Holman, a judge will normally sign an order and give conservatorship of that child, temporarily for the next year to CPS until their parents can get it together.
"If they don't get it together, which happens sometimes, then we end up terminating their rights and then we try and place them with family or a licensed foster home that can adopt," said Holman. "We try to seek permanency for those children, and we try to keep sibling groups together."