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DHR seeks foster, adoptive parents

The Alabama Department of Human Resources has declared February as foster and adoptive parent awareness month. As the campaign’s logo states, “Open your heart. Open your home.”

According to Patty Faircloth, resource social worker and quality assurance coordinator for the Pike County Department of Human Resources, there are currently 71 children in Pike County in need of a foster home.

But, there are only 17 foster families registered in the county.

Despite a record number of foster parent applicants last year, there is still an overwhelming amount of children in need of a home within the county. Children are currently being sent to foster homes outside of the county to keep up with demand, Faircloth said.

In addition to recruiting full-time foster or adoptive parents, Faircloth said respite, or part-time, foster parents are urgently needed. Respite foster parents can keep children overnight or even up to one week. These parents provide a break for full-time foster parents or provide a home in emergency situations.

Currently, foster parents in Pike County share resources such as training classes with surrounding counties. Faircloth anticipates that an increase in applicants will mean an increase in much-needed resources for the county.

Faircloth said the process to become a foster parent is extensive, but she said the efforts are worthwhile.

“We feel as if these are our children,” she said. “And we want to make sure we send them to a safe and loving home.”

First, those interested in becoming a foster or adoptive family must meet basic requirements. Applicants must be 19 years of age or older, have a home meeting state safety minimum standards, be healthy enough to care for a child and agree to undergo thorough background checks, including criminal background and child abuse or neglect clearance checks.

Next, those interested should submit an application to the county DHR. After application review, background and home checks and a medical examination, approved parents are registered for Group Preparation and Selection training (GPS).

“Many people who already have children of their own wonder why they have to train to become foster parents,” Faircloth said.

“But these classes prepare foster and adoptive parents to raise and care for abused and neglected children.”

Parents are required to attend 30 hours of GPS through a 10 week period. Even after parents receive children, they are expected to attend ongoing training courses offered throughout the year.

Faircloth stated that parents can request to foster children of a certain age, race, or gender.

“After GPS, however, many realize they can accommodate any child,” she added.

The DHR Web site is a list of children currently in need of a foster home or adoption. “These children posted on the website are mostly teenagers who are aware of their online profile,” Faircloth said. “They want to be on there so people can see them and provide a home for them.”

These teens know that anyone can find them on the internet, but their desire for a safe and loving home outweighs the potential ridicule they may receive from school bullies, she said.

The list of children can be accessed by clicking the “Adoptions and Alabama’s Waiting Children” quick link on the left-hand menu of the Web site.

Faircloth also reminds those interested that foster parents can eventually become adoptive parents once the child being fostered becomes legally available. The process, requiring additional time, training, and paperwork can be completed in about a year.

The state hopes to increase the amount of foster and adoptive parents through the February recruitment. A record 676 adoptions occurred in the state in 2009, and with the new awareness campaign, these numbers are only expected to rise.

Interested applicants can contact Faircloth at the Pike County Department of Human Resources at 807-6120 or visit www.dhr.alabama.gov for more information.