Seeking shelter for children
Don’t let the figures mislead you.
Even though the number of foster homes in Cobb County has increased from 125 to 148 in the last year, many foster children still don’t have a place to lay their heads, according to Cobb
HELP WANTED: Social Services Case Manager Joyce Miller works with one of the many Cobb County children who are in the foster care system. Department of Family and Children Services officials said there is a desperate need for foster homes to help care for the children.
County’s Department of Family and Children Services.
“Many homes will take only one or two children, so they’re not a resource for us to call on daily,” Adoption and Foster Parenting Supervisor Sandy Gober said.
“Others are very selective because they might have birth children of their own. And as we get new foster homes, others close, so it really remains virtually the same.”
The children who need housing have been pulled out of the worst situations by DFCS and are in dire need of a stable home life. Most have faced neglect or physical abuse. A few have faced sexual abuse.
Many foster homes will accept only relatives or children up for adoption. For example, in 2000, 79 of the 125 homes would take any foster child, and in 2001, 91 of the 148 homes would – an increase of just 12 homes.
That doesn’t mean much given that an average of five more children per month entered the foster care system in 2001 as compared to the year before.
“It’s still a desperate situation,” Gober said. “It’s the same throughout the state. Everyone’s hurting.”
An aggressive recruiting campaign, though, has resulted in more inquiries, she said. “It’s raised awareness and given us positive exposure.”
However, many of the callers are interested in adoption not fostering, especially since a new policy instated in 2001 makes foster adoptions easier, according to Gober. Those who want to adopt may now foster a specific child until he or she is legally available for adoption.
“It’s a good thing because more children are finding permanent homes,” Gober said. “But we’re afraid we’re going to lose foster homes, which we’re so desperate for.”
In fact, most foster parenting classes are composed of 50 percent looking to foster and 50 percent looking to adopt. Sometimes the number of people wanting to adopt reaches 75 percent.
Gober believes many more potential foster parents don’t apply because they don’t think they will be accepted.
“We’re willing to work with anybody,” she said. “But many people are hesitant when they call, saying they’re single, live in an apartment and don’t make lots of money. As long as you don’t have bad references, a criminal record or a real financial hardship, we’ll take you.”
In 2001, 486 children were placed in foster care – the majority are infants to 5 years old. According to Gober, there continues to be an increase in the number of children with severe behavioral and emotional problems as well as children with court charges.
“Even with such a focus on recruitment, there’s been no change for the better,” Gober said.
“I think in the future we’ll have to hire professional foster parents, which has positives and negatives. We can monitor more closely and the homes will be more available, but the children will lack exposure to a normal family setting. It’s almost too much to ask and expect someone to volunteer for this job.”
The homes in Cobb County that do open their doors to foster children are very much appreciated, Gober said.
“Foster homes are our most valued resource. They give us insight into these kids. I really respect what they do.”
For those contemplating becoming a foster parent, DFCS offers an information meeting on the second Thursday of each month at 5 p.m. No appointment is necessary.
The training program is held one night a week for ten weeks. During this time, DFCS runs a background check on each person, and a caseworker conducts a study of the prospective foster homes.
To foster, you must be 21 years old or older; to adopt, you must be 25 or older.
There is no set income requirement, but foster parents must be financially independent. For more information, call (770) 528-5049.
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