LIMA — Right now in Allen County, children are waiting for a safe and happy home.
The two main reasons they are in need are parental domestic violence and substance abuse.
The system is full. There are 39 children placed in 18 foster families.
That’s why Children’s Services has organized “Fostering the Future: Your Road to Foster Parenting Starts Here”, an information session for anyone who has ever considered becoming a foster parent.
“Currently, we are in great need of foster parents. We have a good set of foster parents, but many of our homes are full. We need to increase the number of homes available, especially for teens and siblings,” said Ann Jenkins, special services supervisor for Allen County Children Services.
The event took place on Saturday at the Vibe Coffeehouse & Café, where the agency’s foster parent recruitment team and foster parents were available to answer questions in a casual and relaxed atmosphere.
Prospective foster parents have learned that the agency’s goal is to find family members, if possible, who will take care of the children.
“Foster care is the last option,” Jenkins said. But when that’s the only option left, it’s paramount to keep kids in the same communities and, ideally, the same school districts that they’re already familiar with.
What does it take to become a host family?
Just about any adult can easily apply. Single, married, same-sex couples and all applicant races are eligible to foster a child. People who live in apartments, condos, townhouses or single-family homes are eligible, provided there is at least one bedroom available. The room can be shared with another child. For babies, there must be space for a crib.
There is no minimum income requirement, but the agency does require sufficient income to support the child in care before receiving any additional income from the agency. That’s partly because some items, like diapers or formula, aren’t covered by the agency’s foster care program.
The first step is to complete an application. Applications and candidates are then reviewed by the agency. This is a qualification process that can take up to six months.
During this period, the agency collects additional information, such as financial details showing that the applicant can financially afford to care for a child. Then there is a fire and security inspection of the house. There is then a detailed in-home assessment process to ensure the individual is well suited to foster a child. This is followed by the completion of a 36 hour training program leading to the initial license.
“What we want is a family that is going to be dedicated, structured, open and has a lot of patience. We have a lot of children who are dealing with trauma. We need families who will be willing to work with them and to work with the agency to help them through this so they can either go home or go with a family member,” Jenkins said. Some may require counseling or medication.
To better match children and foster parents, one of the completed documents is the “Child Characteristics Checklist”, with a variety of characteristics on the types of children that foster parents would or would not like to accept, including health, emotional and behavioral conditions.
Once the person qualifies to be a foster parent and is licensed, they will receive monthly visits from a social worker. Individuals must also retain their license. The agency offers six hours of in-person continuing education classes on Saturdays which are offered once a month, with the exception of the month of July. The total completed must equal 30 hours within a two-year certification period.
Children in “the system” are categorized as eligible to be “advantaged”, “advantaged for adoption” or “adopted only”.
Marge Rowe, who worked at Lima Christian Academy, has been an adoptive mother for about 15 years. She adopted five of the approximately 30 children she fostered.
Rowe had children of her own, but when she became an “empty nester” she said she missed caring for children and doing things with them. Plus, she had gone through a divorce, leaving her big house empty except for herself. At that point, she made the decision to foster and then adopt – and she continues to foster to this day.
“Right now in my house I have a 5-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 13-year-old, and a 15-year-old,” Rowe said.
She enjoys working with children to teach them life skills that will help them transition into adulthood successfully, such as how to do their own laundry and cook one meal a week each, following a recipe.
“The 10-year-old made a chocolate cake last week,” she said, smiling proudly.
According to Rowe, the bachelor’s courses were practical. It was largely about common sense and learning agency rules – how many children are allowed in a house, what age groups can be housed together – as well as first aid.
His advice to future foster parents: “Try it!”
For more information or to apply, visit allencsb.com or call 419-227-8590.
Ann Jenkins, left, answers questions from Haley Walters on Saturday’s Fostering the Future with The Allen County Children Services show at the Vibe Coffeehouse & Cafe.
Contact Shannon Bohle at 567-242-0399, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Bohle_LimaNews.