A fast-growing nonprofit that provides a temporary home for children awaiting foster care is coming to Boone County by the end of the summer.
Isaiah 117 House is a Tennessee-based n\organization that builds homes in counties across the United States to provide children a safe and caring atmosphere while they wait for the Dept. of Child Services to find them a suitable foster home.
The new Boone County facility will be built somewhere near the Zionsville-Whitestown border. For security reasons, Isaiah 117 House officials declined to reveal the address.
“The average stay is five to six hours,” said Laura Wiggs, Isaiah 117 House program coordinator for Hendricks, Boone and Montgomery counties. “The main role Isaiah House plays in the process is giving DCS case manager the opportunity and time needed to make the necessary phone calls and fill out the proper paperwork while we take care of the kids.”
Wiggs, who was a volunteer for a year before taking the new position, said the organization is honored to work with the DCS because the organizations share a mutual goal of protecting and caring for children who have been removed from their homes.
“In counties where our houses are open, we have been their go-to, and that’s what we’re striving for,” Wiggs said. “The Isaiah House wouldn’t exist if DCS didn’t trust and use their services.”
In 2021, more than 1,000 children were cared for at the open Isaiah 117 Houses.
Tom Hundley, volunteer and chair for Isaiah 117 House’s local advisory team, said that organization also provides much-needed services for DCS that eases a lot of the trauma for the children.
“When children are removed from their home, they usually have to go back with a DCS case manager to their office,” Hundley said. “So, in these cases, children have to be in the office with that DCS case manager while they try to find a home for them. Sometimes, kids have to sleep on the floor while they wait. Sometimes, they need to be bathed in sinks in the kitchen, and this is obviously not optimal.
“That’s where Isaiah House comes in.”
Children taken to Isaiah 117 Houses are called “red-door guests”, because each house has a bright red front door to represent a place of safety and rest. Children’s ages range from newborns from the hospital to late teens.
Although the houses are not always occupied, the child’s DCS case manager and two or more Isaiah 117 House volunteers are always present while children are housed on the properties. More than 75 people have signed up and are going through training to be volunteers for the Boone County Isaiah 117 House.
Volunteers are activated on an on-call basis by Wiggs. Volunteers then act as caretakers for the displaced children. They cook, wash clothes, clean and keep the children entertained.
“We try our best to make a traumatic day for those children not as traumatic,” Wiggs said. “We can’t take that trauma away, but what we can do is let them know that it’s not their fault and there are people who care for them and will help them every step of the way.”
Twenty-Six Isaiah 117 Houses are under construction, and seven are fully operating. Hundreds of additional applications for houses across the U.S. have also been submitted.
“The growth in three years has been exponential, but we don’t want to grow too fast. We need to take our time so we can do it correctly,” Wiggs said.
Isaiah 117 House is completely funded by donors. It raises its money from events, such as golf outings, banquets and even hot chocolate and lemonade stands, which are run by children looking to raise money for the organization.
“The lemonade stands are a really fun thing,” Wiggs said. “It’s a great fundraiser because it allows kids to help kids. It opens their eyes to the fact that other children may not have it as easy as they do and allows them to support their peers.”
Isaiah 117 House also accepts donations of new clothes, food, and other necessities to provide to the children.
“One way to donate, one that we’re really trying drive home, is a recurring monthly donor plan,” Hundley said. “We’re hoping these donations will cover approximately 50% of our expenses, but right now we’re getting about 10%.”
To donate to the Isaiah House, visit https://isaiah117house.com/donate.