The Call Ministry House officially opened a new facility Friday in Conway.

The Call is a ministry that educates, equips and encourages the Christian community to provide a future and a hope for children in foster care in Arkansas.

“This project started more than two years ago,” The Call’s County Coordinator Louise Witcher said. “We had a vision of getting a lease, renovating the house, raising the money and get going on remodeling what would be an extension of our ministry to our case workers, to our department and help them do their job in a more efficient way.”

The Call wanted to make everything easier on the children and make it easier to minister to foster and adoptive parents.

“Through The Call, we have a place for them to do birthday parties, places for us to do inservices, for foster and adoptive parents and to gather with biological parents if the child feels safe.”

Witcher said there are several visitation areas in the house.

“We hope, with the quality of the visitation areas, we will be able to increase communication,” she said. “We want children to go home. If they are not able to go home because they don’t feel safe, then we’re ready for adoptive parents to step up and provide permanency for these children. We do not want more than 200 children per year aging out, which is what happens in Arkansas each year.”

Witcher said The Call wanted the house to be a friendly, non-threatening environment.

“They are already traumatized by just being taken into care,” she said. “Sometimes, the reason they come here is why they are traumatized to come here. We want this to feel like a home for these children and [for them] to be relaxed.”

Witcher said it will also make things easier for caseworkers.

“When a caseworker gets a child, they will be able to come in; and if that child needs a bath, there is a place to do that with the most important room in the house, the bathroom,” she said. “From there, they can start looking for these children to go to a foster home. In the meantime, the child can come sit in the visitation room and play.”

Witcher said there are also places for children to eat.

“Instead of a child having to eat in the office with a caseworker, they now have a place to eat and grab a snack.”

Witcher said none of that would have been possible without the help of a lot of different people.

“If I start naming names, I’ll forget people, but the most important person who has helped has been with me for 44 years, and that’s my husband,” she said. “It’s been a tough nine months to get to where we are today, if not for the help of my husband, son and the many others who helped, we wouldn’t be here. We appreciate the community for their help and support.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Conway is blessed with great leadership to get The Call to happen.

“The leadership of the community is extremely important in caring for the children that are our responsibility when they are neglected in other ways,” he said. “The Call is probably the biggest thing that is the biggest addition to the state in caring of foster children in Arkansas in my lifetime.”

Hutchinson said it is a blessing that Arkansas has The Call and what everyone involved has been able to accomplish.

“This is just a house, but it is a huge addition for children and The Calls’ ministry,” he said. “The Call is an inspiration to everyone to do more for our children, to care more, to love more and to show the love of Christ more.”

Hutchinson said foster care has been one of the bigger issues in the state.

“We had a shortage of parents and the children were exceeding by far the number of homes we had to place them in,” he said. “We had developed a greater relationship with The Call. We identified barriers to help give places like The Call to develop further.”

The Call is a nonprofit ministry.