By TIFFANY RONEY
Myths about foster care float through society like tall tales. Mary McClellan, recruitment specialist for TFI Family Services seeks to shrink those tales with a healthy dose of truth.
To become foster parents individuals must go through a licensing process. Foster parents need not be married or have any parenting experience, according to TFI’s website.
“We really want to emphasize to people that it’s not as hard of a process as you might think to get licensed,” McClellan said. “A lot of people think they have to have an immaculate home and own their own home, and you don’t. There are regulations, but you can rent. You can be in an apartment. You don’t have to have a grand place.”
As part of the licensing process potential foster parents take a 10-week course. The course not only prepares them for foster parenting but also helps them learn about the types of foster parenting that are available so they can decide what type they want to sign up for.
of foster care:
There are several types of foster care and people can decide which types they are open to and which ones are not for them.
According to TFI’s website, the types of foster care include but are not limited to the following:
• Intensive treatment therapeutic care: This type of foster care is for children with severe emotional and behavioral needs.
• Emergency resource care: This type of foster care involves a child who msut be removed immediately from his or her home. The child may be in the emergency resource home up to 72 hours.
• Supportive family living: This type of foster care is for children who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Reimbursement rates vary depending on the level of care needed.
“Some people are intimidated by the idea of having children there full-time, but there’s the option of becoming a respite home,” McClellan said. “The respite is basically kind of a fill-in person.”
Respite care homes take children for anywhere from a weekend to a week while the regular foster parents go to a funeral or take a vacation.
McClellan said it is also helpful for people to know that when they license, they get to set up a profile for the type of children they are interested in taking into their homes.
“If they want only boys between the ages of 5 and 12, and they can have some physical disabilities, but they can’t have too much aggressive issues – that kind of thing,” McClellan said. “You can narrow it down as much as you want to. And then, they’ll only get calls for children that fit within that category, so they’re not going to get calls for something they just totally don’t think they can handle.”
Just say yes – or no
McClellan said foster parents occasionally receive calls for children and situations that are outside the perimeters of their profiles, but those calls only arise when the organization is desperate, McClellan said. Even in these cases though, foster parents never have to say yes.
“You don’t have to take every child they call you on; we don’t want you to,” McClellan said. “We want people to take a child that they feel comfortable with. And we want them to, when they’re called about a child, to ask as many questions as we feel they need to make a decision.”
McClellan said it helps people calm down about the idea of fostering when they discover they do not have to take whoever is “given” to them.
Some people have heard negative stories about people who chose to become foster parents to make extra money. Ruby Winters, foster parent of TFI, said those instances are rare.
“If they think foster parents do it for the money, people don’t know,” Winters said. “You sure don’t make anything. What you get, you spend on the kids and more too. You just do it out of the goodness of your heart and because you like to take in kids.”
Word of mouth
Currently in Saline County, there are 143 children in out-of-home placement, but 103 of those are placed out of Saline County because there are not homes for them in Saline. While McClellan did not have exact figures for Dickinson County, she said the numbers are similar.
“Quite often a child will have to be placed far away from their home base because there isn’t a home available in their area, so that just makes everything harder when a child has to be placed father away from their home base – all their friends and their school and everything,” McClellan said. “So that’s why, especially in kind of smaller areas like Abilene, it’s definitely a need for more people, for more homes.”
While media can help raise awareness about foster parenting, McClellan said the strongest recruiters are the foster parents themselves.
“It kind of feeds off people,” McClellan said. “Recently in the Marysville area, one person did it, and another one. They talked to them first, and they got to be a chain effect of, ‘Hey, this is a good thing to do,’ so that’s really helpful when we an get one person started and they can help spread the word to another person. That’s kind of what it’s all about. Yes, it’s a hard thing to do, but the rewards our so worth it. Our foster parents are the best recruiters because they can tell the real story.”
For more information, contact TFI toll-free at 800-279-9914 or visit www.tfifamilyservices.org.