Foster care agencies continue to experience a foster parent shortage that began at the height of the pandemic and still has not recovered.
Josiah White’s Foster Care regional manager Dana Gault expressed that foster care provides many positives such as providing parents the time to access and improve aspects of their lives that is leading toward a negative outcome. Foster care is about helping the children, foster families and the biological families of the children who may need time to improve their own lives.
Gault stressed that the biggest issue facing the foster care system currently is a lack of foster parents, especially for teenage foster children.
“We don’t have enough foster homes to serve the children. We have a lot of teens that need temporary living in a safe place while their families address some of those issues. I mean those issues that have led to parent safety issues and the kids cannot go home,” said Gault. “A lot of people want those cute little babies, but we have a lot of teens that need those homes.”
According to Gault, teenagers around the state are being forced to sleep in DCS offices due to the lack of foster homes and the even further lack of foster parents interested in fostering older children.
Debra Corn Foster Care regional director Cathy Felton commented on the impact that COVID has had on incoming and current foster parents.
“People are very scared of COVID. They are very scared of having people come into their homes,” said Felton. “When accepting a child into your home, you also understand that they will be going to visit with people. They’re going to have transporters. They’re going to be seeing therapists. They may be having a case manager coming in. Having people in and out of your home during COVID can be very scary.”
However, Felton assures foster parents that all foster agencies have the intention to help rather than hinder, and many have implemented extensive safety precautions due to the pandemic.
“Foster parents and potential foster parents need to understand that we are doing everything possible to protect them and their families. When we go to the home, we are respectful and ask, ‘Would you like us to wear a mask in your home?’” said Felton. “We are very open to doing virtual. The state of Indiana is still approving that.”
Another barrier to finding foster homes deals with family. Gault highlighted the intricacies in dealing with siblings in the foster care system as the agencies attempt to keep families together as much as possible.
“Siblings have the closest bond to each other, closer than a parent-child bond, so we try to keep siblings in a foster care home together and not separate them,” said Gault. “Some kids come in wanting to be together and not wanting to separate, so they’re desperately wanting to stay together.”
According to Felton, agencies have been required to transfer children out of the county due to the lack of homes in Marion, which can make the goal of keeping siblings together difficult.
One of the largest misconceptions about foster care is that fostering leads to adoption, and many families are not willing to adopt a child into their home.
However, according to Gault, only 26 percent of foster children are eventually adopted into a “forever home,” and the foster care system is temporary living that benefits both the children and the parents.
“We are always looking to reunify the children with their biological parents, or their biological family or even sometimes a kinship placement. The ultimate goal is to reunify the child with someone the child already has a connection with,” said Felton. “In the event that cannot happen, if rights are terminated and there is no one to step into that role, a foster parent has the ability to adopt that child. However, the goal is reunification.”
Gault emphasized that foster parents are not required to be married. Single-parent foster homes receive the same support from the agency. Agencies require foster parents to be over 18 years old, have a stable home that can support a foster child and file an inquiry for licensure among other small stipulations.
Josiah White’s is hosting a foster parent recruitment skating event at Idyl Wyld on Dec. 12 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to help educate and recruit potential foster parents.
Gault recommends that potential foster parents take the first step by visiting josiahwhites.org and filing an inquiry to begin the process with Josiah White’s.
“We really need foster parents,” said Gault.