SALISBURY — We are all familiar with the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” A traditional African proverb that has never been more necessary than it is today. These words and the meaning behind them ring true for children in foster care and their families.
“Our foster families and resource parents are what make up our villages,” said Kelly Myrer, Wicomico County Department of Social Services. “And it is our job as a department to make sure we have qualified, caring and supportive homes to place foster children in during one of the most vulnerable times of their childhood.”
In honor of National Foster Care month that falls in May, the Department of Social Services in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties are teaming up to host two free informational sessions for potential foster parents. The events will give community members an opportunity to network with foster parents to better understand the process of becoming a resource parent, but also the reasons behind making the commitment to foster.
“It’s an educational process,” said Ne-Shant Sims, Tri-County Coordinator. “We want to make sure individuals are prepared and understand what the commitment means. We also want every person considering becoming a foster parent to know that reunification with the birth family is the initial goal. We want what is in the best interest of every child. When the situation presents itself for a child to re-enter the birth home, in a safe environment, the foster parent or parents need to be prepared for this.”
In Our Own Backyard
Worcester County currently has 32 youth in foster care and 22 licensed homes. The County has several teens and sibling groups who are living outside their home community because of the need for more families to foster these populations. In Wicomico County there are 28 youth in foster care, 10 of which are placed out of the county with 4 of the 10 in their late teens. These 4 are in the Baltimore County/City area placed in group facilities which specialize in independent living. And Somerset County has 22 youth in foster care ranging in ages from 3 months old to 19 years old, but currently only 9 resource homes. Of the 22 children in care, 15 are placed with resource families out of the county due to a minimal number of resource homes.
What does it take to be a Foster Parent?
While the qualifications to become a foster parent are pretty straight forward (see below), the goal of family foster care is to provide a safe and nurturing place for children to live until they can be reunited with their own families, placed with relatives or adopted.
“We want people to understand from the beginning that it’s not about finding a child for them, it’s about finding a suitable family and home for a child in need,” said Sims. “Teens and sibling groups are the biggest challenge for us. We want potential foster parents to realize that teenagers still need parenting, love and support. Foster children carry the stigma of being youth who display difficult behavior as a result of their environment. We work very closely with our foster parents to help them provide an opportunity to give every one of our youth a chance at a better life with more direction, goals and a brighter future.”
Qualifications to become a Foster/Adoptive Resource Parent
- You must be at least 21 years of age
- Able to obtain medical clearance from a health provider
- Married couples as well as single individuals are welcome
- You must be able to meet your family’s current financial obligations
- Both men and women can become foster/adoptive parents
- Your home must pass a health and fire inspection
- State Police and FBI criminal background checks, Child Protective Service, Child Support and Motor Vehicle Administration clearances is required for everyone 18 years & older who reside in the home
Upcoming Foster Care Informational Session
If interested in attending, please RSVP by April 29, 2016 by calling 410-713-3959
May 11, 2016, 1:00 to 3:00pm
Main Street Enchanted Tea Room
7 South Main Street, Berlin, MD 21811
(Near the Atlantic Hotel in downtown Berlin)
May 19, 2016, 6:00 to 8:00pm
The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore
1324 Belmont Ave #401, Salisbury, MD 21804
Food and refreshments will be provided and resource parents will earn Continuing Education Credits (CEU) for attending.