New Columbus foster care home seeks to nurture area teenagers

Columbus, GA (WTVM) - Advocates for foster care are doing their part to help children in Muscogee County by opening a new foster home.

With open doors, the Southern Living Academy on Alton Street welcomed potential new residents at an open house from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Soon, 15 teenage boys between the ages 12-18 will learn and live together as they wait for permanent homes.

All of them registered through the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

Academy director Andrea Shields said it's been her dream for decades to provide a safe space for teens, especially boys, whom she feels have been exposed to more and more violence, similar to what she heard about the Upatoi triple murders in January 2016.

"Lately, from what's been going on," Shields said, "[the boys] are feeling hopeless and that's what we feel Southern Living Academy is going to do is bring them hope. Help them look inside themselves so they can know they have a purpose and just give them the love they need."

Shields said she'll ensure each boy receives that affection and care before and after school, with a permanent staff watching over the boys.

When asked if she plans on helping other kids, Shields says she wants to build even more academies for foster children.

"I am a visionary, so I envision several homes like this... not only boys but maybe girls as well," Shields said.  "So this is our start."

Shields also said the house's original owners first thought about selling the home, but after partnering with Shields, they will still be involved in caring for the boys.

Shields said the house is ready to host a Georgia D.F.C.S. inspector, in order to get an approval and open the academy by mid-February.

For their open house, the academy had six beds ready, and Shields said they are working on getting zoning approval for the remaining nine teens.

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