The Rev. Willie Myles, statewide coordinator for the Georgia Department of Human Services Ministerial and Faith Community Alliance, speaks at a public hearing in Albany on Thursday. The goal of the hearing was to get the faith community more actively involved in helping vulnerable children and families in the area. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
DHS Public Hearing
Georgia DHS, faith communty host public hearing in Albany
ALBANY — Representatives from the public as well as various agencies met together in Albany Thursday to address how the needs of the community’s vulnerable children and families can be met with the help of the faith community.
A public hearing took place at the Georgia Department of Human Services Division of Family & Children Services office in downtown Albany to help the faith community get involved in that effort. DHS Commissioner Keith Horton was in attendance at the hearing, which was conducted at the Dougherty County DFCS office at 200 W. Oglethorpe Blvd.
DFCS Director Bobby Cagle was expected to attend, but had a schedule conflict.
Coordinators said it was part of the statewide effort to get ministers on board by igniting faith and a sense of personal responsibility to help Georgia’s most vulnerable children — including those who are fatherless, in poverty, have a parent who is incarcerated or are abused or neglected.
“When people of faith come together, things happen,” said the Rev. Willie Myles, statewide coordinator of the DHS Ministerial and Faith Community Alliance. “It is not (the government’s) responsibility to care for the least of these. It was the command of the church.”
Horton gave some background regarding the establishment of the alliance, which came about after it was noticed that there was something missing from the equation when it came to building a level playing field for custodial and non-custodial parents — and then it was realized that the faith community needed to be involved.
“We left something out of the equation; we left God out the equation,” he said. “There is no way in the world the government can solve all the problems in our society. No way.”
Some of the topics included how the faith community can help vulnerable children and families, grandparents raising grandchildren, child welfare and foster care, the impact of absentee fathers on children and families as well as services for the elderly.
Mention was made of the Problem Solving Court, which is meant to address the issue of non-custodial parents who are not paying the child support they owe. often these parents need to get a job in order to pay the support. It’s a system that has provided a mentor, parenting model and accountability to those who have needed to use it.
J.P. Taylor, coordinator for the court in the Pataula Judicial Circuit, said that since the court was established in his circuit in 2011, there has been a significant improvement in closing the gap on what people owe.
“That means shoes on feet and coats on cold shoulders, but it also provides them access to their children,” Taylor said.
Problem Solving Courts are established by a superior court judge from his or her circuit expressing interest by contacting their area’s regional or local child support manager. There is not currently one in Albany.
Kimberly Smith, director of the DFCS office in Dougherty County, gave phone numbers for those needing DFCS assistance and are having trouble accessing what they need through the phone system or computer system and need a person to talk to. They were (229) 430-3200 and (229) 430-5147.
Anyone needed to speak to a specialist with the SOWEGA Council on Aging on items such as meal assistance or home care can call (229) 432-1124.
In trying to bring the point home of how much of an impact the faith community can have, Myles pointed out that there are 25,000 religious groups in Georgia.
“Assuming that each has one member, that’s 25,000 people in Georgia. We can pull together,” he said. “We are concerned about getting people to heaven, but there are people suffering on Earth.”
Similar meetings have also taken place in Athens and Cartersville. The next event planned for the ministerial alliance is a luncheon on Aug. 28 in College Park for ministers and the faith community, followed by a statewide week of prayer that will kick off on Sept. 15 in Atlanta.
For more information on the ministerial alliance, Myles can be contacted at email@example.com, or by calling (404) 232-1640 or (954) 300-6471.