Originally created 11/22/06

Facility could become home for state wards



Athens children who are taken into state custody currently have nowhere to stay until case workers find a foster home, but they could be staying at the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School in a few years.

Athens-Oconee Court Appointed Special Advocates, a nonprofit agency that looks after abused or neglected children as they make their way through the legal system, is proposing a 12-bed emergency shelter at the Navy school.

The shelter would give children up to age 18 a place to stay while they await a foster home, Athens-Oconee CASA Executive Director Christian Orobello said.

"When children come into care, we need a place for them, or they end up hanging out at DFACS," Mr. Orobello said.

Previously, the state Division of Family and Children Services and CASA operated a volunteer-staffed "granny house" shelter in the Rocksprings Homes public housing project and an acceptance center on Pulaski Street, but those facilities closed several years ago, he said.

The shelter also would allow professionals to evaluate the children and decide where they should be placed, Mr. Orobello said. Some children prefer group shelters, and some prefer foster homes, he said.

"It kind of gives us time and a space for these kids so they can stabilize, and we can decide what's best for this child," he said.

CASA is proposing a 12-bed shelter in the Quarters A building, a former officer's home and dormitory that now serves as offices on the Navy school campus. The agency should have no problem filling those beds, Mr. Orobello said.

DFACS takes almost 400 Athens children a year into custody, and CASA serves more than 200 of them.

The 17-member local redevelopment authority is expected to finish its plan for reusing the 58-acre Prince Avenue base by the end of April, and submit it for approval to the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Navy school is expected to close in 2011, and its functions will move to a base in Rhode Island.