Foster program seeks support at Christmastime

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2001

Features Editor

With Christmas just around the corner, most children are making wish lists to mail to Santa Claus.

However, nearly 5,000 children in Alabama are just waiting and wishing for a place to call home.

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Kelly Sanders, said the need for foster families is "desperate."

"All across the state there is a great need for foster families and, around Christmas, there seems to be a greater urgency in finding homes for these children," she said. "Everyone wants to be ‘at home’ and ‘with family’ at Christmas."

Sanders is a social worker with Family Finders

and Laura Hollis is a case worker with Therapeutic Foster Care. Both agencies are under the umbrella of the United Methodist Children’s Home and both "workers" are faced with the growing need for foster homes.

"Around Christmas, it’s especially hard when so many children don’t have a place to call home," Hollis said. "Children who cannot be placed in a nearby foster home are either placed outside their home county, outside the state or in group homes. The whole idea of foster care is family preservation. The closer we can place a child to his or her familiar surroundings the better."

According to Sanders, eight more foster homes are needed immediately in Pike County. Hollis said there is also an immediate need for six more therapeutic foster homes.

Training for those who want to become foster parents is the same, except an additional 10 hours is required for therapeutic foster parents.

"The training period is 10 weeks, one night a week for three hours," Sanders said. "Taking the training class doesn’t lock a person into becoming a foster parent. It prepares them to become a foster parent. Some people take the class and decide being a foster parent is not for them. Others decide the time isn’t right, but, when the time is right for them, they will notify us and they will have the training behind them."

The next training class for foster parents will begin Feb. 5, 2002. There will not be another class until the fall.

Sanders said children in foster care are those who are temporarily separated from their families due to abuse or neglect.

"Many of these children need extra help in getting along with others, school work and feeling good about themselves," she said. "We also have infants who have special feeding and medical problems, brothers and sisters who should stay together and children with developmental or physical disabilities. Some children need families who are sensitive to and respectful of their culture and teenagers who have not experienced positive family life and need extra patience and commitment."

Hollis said therapeutic foster care is different from regular foster care in that these children have special needs that cannot be met through less restrictive foster care resources.


foster care homes provide more structure and more intense family involvement than a regular foster home," she said. "Children placed in TFC homes may react to people and situations in ways that seem inappropriate because of previous traumatic experiences. They may experience school-related difficulties or exhibit discipline problems. They may also have development delays or may require help in learning to express feelings, such as anger or sadness, in a positive way."

Although there is a difference between the regular and therapeutic foster care programs, the stereotype of the foster care parent is the same.

"Foster care parents are kind, caring people who have room in their homes and hearts for a hurting child," Hollis said. "They are Christian people who want to make life better for children whose lives have been a struggle."

Sanders said some foster parents have children of their own. Others have an "empty nest" and there are foster parents who are unable to have children of their own.

"There are cases when the parental rights of a child will be terminated and that child can be adopted," Sanders said. "It’s very gratifying when a child moves from foster care to being a member of a loving family."

As the search is on for foster parents, Sanders and Hollis said they realize not everyone wants to be a foster parent.

"But, I think almost everyone wants to make life better for children who are hurting, especially at this time of year," Hollis said. "And, there are other ways people can be involved in the foster care programs."

Items of clothing, canned food, hygiene products and diapers are always needed.

"But around the holidays if someone would like to donate movie tickets or a meal at a local restaurant to a foster family that would be a wonderful way to share Christmas with these children," Sanders said. "There are many ways people can make Christmas special for these families – a trip to the Montgomery Zoo or some other Christmas event would be exciting for them. We would like to encourage Pike Countians to give a different gift this year and make Christmas very special for the children in foster care."

For more information about regular foster care, contact Sanders at 807-6183 and for therapeutic foster care, contact Hollis at 807-6145.