Imagine being a small, frightened child whisked from your home after a court determines your home life is dangerous, inappropriate or unhealthy.
Fifty-three children in Allen County, ages newborn to 18, have recently experienced such turmoil, either because of their home lives or because their own behavior cannot be managed at home.
Their safety net is foster care.
In Allen County, more foster parents are needed to provide care for children in these desperate situations. Ideally the children are returned to their biological families when disputes are resolved, said Nicole Desmarteau, resource family worker at TFI Family Services (The Farm Incorporated).
Being foster parents had never crossed Crystal and Thomas Halls’ minds until they were asked to care for their niece and her three stepsiblings in 2007.
“We had a 3-year-old daughter and newborn son when we were asked to care for our family’s children,” Crystal said.
Two of the children eventually returned to their home and the Hallses adopted two.
Being deeply touched by the need of displaced children, the Hallses took classes through TFI and have become a licensed foster care family.
“We have cared for all-age children from babies to teenagers. The hardest part of being a foster parent is not getting too attached to the child, because I know the best thing is for the child to return to his home,” Crystal said.
“WE TRY to keep siblings together in their home county so they can maintain a relationship with their biological family,” Desmarteau said.
It is also important for the child to not only be close to his parents but also be able to attend his school and maintain childhood friendships.
If homes are not available in a home county, children may be placed in any available home throughout the state. It is difficult for weekly parental visits if a child is placed in a home where a parent has to travel two to three hours for the visitation, Desmarteau said.
“Our goal is to help foster children find a ‘forever’ home whether it is going back to their parents or through adoption,” Desmarteau said.
TO BECOME a foster parent a person must be 21, have an outside source of income, have a permanent residence and have enough space to provide a separate bed for each foster child.
Prospective foster parents must complete Partnering for Safety and Permanence — Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (PS-MAPP) training which is a free 10-week training course, offered by TFI, designed to help a person make an informed decision about becoming a resource foster parent.
Other qualifications to become a foster parent include providing three personal references, passing Kansas Bureau of Investigation fingerprinting and Child Abuse Registry background checks and the person’s home must pass inspection by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent may call Desmarteau at (620) 365-3428.