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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Asa Hutchinson greets Paul Chapman Jr. during a meeting with state and religious leaders in July 2015 where Hutchinson announced plans for an interfaith summit in August that year.That gave rise to creation of Restore Hope Inc. now headed by Chapman. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

A fledgling nonprofit aimed at reducing the number of children in foster care and keeping people out of prison has helped organize alliances in Sebastian and White counties, and eventually hopes to have about a dozen partnerships across the state.

Photo by David Gottschalk
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Chancellor Paul Beran, speaks Wednesday, June 7, 2017, during a ceremony at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith campus.
Heath Carpenter, an assistant professor of English at Harding University in Searcy, is shown in this photo.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson inspired the creation of Restore Hope Inc. after holding a two-day conference in August 2015 by the same name.

The nonprofit's executive director is Paul Chapman Jr., a former executive director of missions at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock and a former business analyst and manager at former telephone company Alltel. The nonprofit's board is made up of the troika of Dillard's Inc. Senior Vice President Bill Dillard III, fund manager and Innovate Arkansas adviser Ted Dickey and Chapman, Chapman said.

Restore Hope Inc. filed registration papers with the secretary of state's office on Jan. 12, 2016, according to that office. Hutchinson's Restore Hope conference in 2015 was aimed at encouraging faith-based organizations to help the state provide better services for foster children and inmates who are re-entering society.

Chapman recalled that the Republican governor urged the participants to work together to make changes.

"I had quite a burden," he said in a recent interview at the nonprofit's offices at 3700 W. 65th St. in Little Rock. "I was waking up early in the morning [thinking] the governor could make something happen different than the way we operate and only the governor could do that here."

So Chapman said he started working with the governor's staff on "what that would look like," and Restore Hope Arkansas was formed.

Hutchinson, who said he attends Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock and is a member of First Baptist Church in Rogers, noted that he gathered more than 500 faith-based organizations and pastors for the Restore Hope summit.

"With all the volunteers and support that generated from that, we needed to have an umbrella organization to help guide and impact some of these strategies in the communities, and out of that arose Restore Hope as this 501(c)(3) with Paul Chapman leading it," Hutchinson said Friday in an interview. He was referring to the Internal Revenue Service designation for a tax-exempt organization.

"I couldn't tell you who is the first one to come up with that idea. I don't know," the governor said. He said he helped recruit Dickey and Dillard to serve on the group's board of directors because he wanted to make sure that the group had strong business leaders who believed in its mission.

According to the nonprofit's grant application to the Delta Regional Authority, Restore Hope Arkansas "was launched by Governor Hutchinson to reduce the number of children entering our state's foster care system and reverse the growing rate of incarceration.

"Knowing that no one organization could address these complex problems, a collective impact approach was decided upon and Restore Hope Inc. was created as the backbone organization to guide the strategy and build community capacity through the support of state agencies and staffing local leadership collaborates, called Alliances," according to the grant application.

A copy of the nonprofit's 2016 tax form shows that the group received $250,000 in government grants -- including $100,000 from the Governor's Emergency Fund, $100,000 from Arkansas Community Correction and $50,000 from the Department of Workforce Services -- and its expenses totaled $223,185, including $117,626 in salary and employee benefits.

The nonprofit's budget is about $500,000 this fiscal year, and it has eight paid employees, including three full-time employees, and more than 100 volunteers, Chapman said.

According to the tax form, Chapman's compensation was $105,000 in 2016. The group's board of directors "met and determined a salary comparable to other organizations in this region," according to that form that listed Chapman as the board chairman and Dillard as the vice chairman. Chapman said his salary will be adjusted based on the nonprofit's funding, but he is paid less than what he was paid at his previous job and significantly less than what he was paid at Alltel.

The Department of Workforce Services has provided $250,000 in total from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funds to Restore Hope to help provide services for ex-offenders and is working with a memorandum of understanding with Arkansas Community Correction to provide $400,000 more, said Steve Guntharp, an assistant director at the department.

The nonprofit's financial supporters also include Delta Regional Authority and Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office. Fellowship Bible Church has provided a staff member for six months, according to Chapman. The authority granted Restore Hope $119,000 after Hutchinson recommended the award and Rutledge provided a $75,000 grant to the nonprofit late in fiscal 2017, which ended June 30.

The money from Rutledge's office was used "to assist with an innovative community-led pilot program that will help in caring for children in the state foster care system and individuals who are re-entering society from prison," said Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge.

Chapman said the nonprofit is applying for grants through the U.S. Department of Justice's Second Chance Act program and Kaufman Foundation.

Asked if the aim is always to use public funds for the nonprofit or to wean it from those funds, Hutchinson said, "I think that remains to be seen in the future.

"There is a couple of ways this can happen. It is carrying out a very important mission of the state, and so I feel comfortable in having it receiving grant money ... as long as they are obviously properly accounting for it," he said.

"I don't see emergency funds going into it in the future. I think that was a one-time expense," Hutchinson said.

"If it is going to be long term, it needs to have more private sector support. It remains to be seen as to whether this has to be long term or whether this is a bridge to get to a level of community support that we need that is self-functioning and self-executing," Hutchinson said.

Chapman said the nonprofit is working with the Department of Correction and the Department of Community Correction to identify parolees returning to their communities in Sebastian and White counties and to work with parole officers to connect parolees with services. The intent is to provide the best chance of success for these individuals re-entering the community, he said. The two departments' directors have allowed the nonprofit's case managers to have contact with inmates on the verge of release into these communities, he said.

In the matter of foster care, Chapman said the White County Restore Hope group has created a Mercy Advocates for Parents program to work with parents seeking to reunify with children in the state's care.

Paul Beran of Fort Smith, chancellor at the University of Arkansas, Fort Smith, is chairman of the alliance in Sebastian County, while Reynie Rutledge of Searcy, chairman and CEO of First Security Bancorp, is the chairman of the alliance in White County.

The alliances include public, private and social sector leaders to help address the unique issues that each community faces in reducing the number of children in foster care and adults in prisons.

Beran said he told Chapman that he would serve as the alliance's chairman if he was asked to do it "because it appeared to me that for Sebastian County, all the paths for making a change crossed through the university in some way." Beran said Hutchinson asked him to chair the alliance in that county.

Beran noted that Sebastian County has a 55 percent prisoner recidivism rate and more children in foster care than in the Little Rock area.

"Reducing recidivism through counseling and life training/coaching and education will reduce the number in foster care because justice involved individuals will have better parenting skills and coping skills," he wrote in an email. "Life coaching and counseling can also reduce a core problem of drug addiction (mostly opioids) and alcoholism."

Beran said he's learned that public and private agencies "with different focuses and purposes" sometimes don't communicate well.

There have been two Sebastian County alliance meetings to find points of cooperation, and the local probation and parole office helped locate space for a "one-stop" shop for "justice involved clients to get the help they need," he said.

Heath Carpenter, an assistant professor of English at Harding University in Searcy, is a project manager for Restore Hope in White County.

"We are really interested in what a university can do to help solve some of the problems in the community ... and we thought we would serve an interesting case study," Carpenter said.

"Our goal was simply to get everybody around the table and ask questions about what they are seeing in their silo," he said.

For example, Carpenter said some parolees couldn't get driver's licenses to drive to work because their licenses were suspended for not paying fees and fines, so "we were able to spearhead an effort with the driver's license bill passed in the past session with [Rep.] Clarke Tucker," a Democrat from Little Rock.

He said Act 1012 of 2017 will allow some people getting out of prison to get hardship licenses to go to work, take their children to school and drive to the parole offices.

"We think that will mitigate some of that pressure and hopefully keep people from" going back to prison, Carpenter said.

So far, Hutchinson said the Restore Hope's efforts are going well.

"What I watch is they're being instrumental in building the long-term solutions and community support for addressing the foster care needs of our state and that they're also assisting in the re-entry programs and building a more systematic approach ... to providing the means for ex-offenders to come out in our society," the governor said. "I think it has been a great investment and a great mission they have."

SundayMonday on 07/09/2017

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