A group of interfaith leaders will convene in late August to plan ways to aid the re-entry of prisoners and bolster an overcrowded foster care system in Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday.
According to Hutchinson, there are 2,500 foster care beds in the state for 4,400 children. He said at a press conference Tuesday he hopes the "Governor's Restore Hope Summit: A Call to Action for Faith Leaders on Foster Care and Prison Re-entry," will issue a set of recommendations on ways religious communities can become more involved in addressing the issues.
“I see this as inspirational," said Hutchinson. "How can we engage our houses of worship to a greater extent? How can we engage the average Arkansas citizen, employers, in the needs we have in this state?” he asked.
Rabbi Kalman Winnick of Congregation Agu Dath Achim, one of the leaders in attendance, said he hopes members of his congregation will consider fostering children or volunteering with the foster care system. Winnick believes religious congregations can also play an important role in helping former prisoners feel welcomed back into society.
“The needs that we provide both for our children and those re-entering society are not just financial needs and food needs but social needs," he said. Winnick added it's important,"that people have environments where they can be welcomed into our community, not just tolerated in our community."
According to Hutchinson, the initiative will be privately funded and the work of religious groups will be spiritual in nature and will stem from their particular convictions. The summit is to be held August 25th and 26th.