Have you ever wondered about becoming a foster parent but might have been intimated by the process? Well, here are few reasons that make it worth it, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. Many foster parents and families serve many children over several years because they find the experience rewarding.
- A sense of accomplishment and pride in doing a meaningful, important job
- The chance to help children feel good about themselves
- A challenging experience
- The opportunity to meet and work with new people
- A chance to apply special talents and knowledge
- The opportunity to make a lifetime of difference in a short time
For more insight, check out the website of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Gillian Moxey, community relations coordinator of ChildNet Palm Beach County, and Berdie Duvelsaint, director of program services for Friends of Foster Children, answer these questions concerning foster parenting:
Q: I've been thinking about fostering a child, but I'm not sure where to begin. Where can I find information on the process, and what's required of me?
Moxey: You can begin by visiting ChildNet’s website or by calling ChildNet’s foster parent recruitment hotline at 561-352-2501. Once you contact ChildNet, we will connect you with a foster management agency that will provide additional information as needed.
Duvelsaint: With more than 1,600 children in foster care in our community, programs like Friends of Foster Children and ChildNet are crucial to the community. You can start by visiting our website to get valuable information on the process.
Q: What can I expect emotionally?
Duvelsaint: Children enter the foster-care system as a result of abuse and neglect, with nearly 30 percent of these children exhibiting severe emotional, behavioral or developmental problems. That said, many children prove extremely resilient and, when given a stable home with nurturing parents, are able to overcome their initial difficulties and lead happy, healthy lives. To help foster parents and children throughout the process, Friends of Foster Children offers access to numerous monthly support networks that provide 24/7 on-call support services, training classes, counseling, continuing education and many other avenues of support.
Q: What can I expect financially? Is there a cost or perhaps a stipend for reimbursement?
Moxey: Financially, the child welfare system will cover most of the basic expenses to care for the child, including child-care subsidies, Medicaid and a monthly stipend.
Q: What is a common challenge potential foster parents face during the application process?
Moxey: Potential foster parents must participate in pre-service training, background screenings and a home study. These requirements can be a challenge for some people, as they require a time commitment and transparency in your home/family life.
Q: What types of children are waiting to be placed in foster care?
Moxey: Children of all ages, origins, ethnicity and backgrounds are in foster care. However, they share one common thread: All of these children need a loving family and a place to call home. All of the children in foster care were removed from their parents' care due to abuse, abandonment or neglect. We are especially in need of foster parents who can:
- Stay at home to care for newborns younger than six weeks
- Take sibling groups, especially of mixed genders
- Care for children with behavioral or mental health issues
- Care for children with medical needs
- Care for teenagers and teach them to live independently
Q: Are there any misconceptions about fostering a child?
Moxey: The biggest thing people don’t realize is that teenagers need foster parents too, not just young children. Here in Palm Beach County, we have an immediate and growing need for foster parents willing to accept teens. While teenage problems can be intimidating, fostering a teen can be incredibly gratifying and an opportunity to provide love and guidance during a key period in a child’s development.
Q: Is there anything else I should consider before applying to foster a child?
Duvelsaint: If a family is unable or not ready to foster at this time, there are still many ways to help foster children. Interested individuals can volunteer to mentor or tutor a child in foster care, or to provide administrative assistance at one of the many foster-care agencies working directly with Palm Beach children. Interested individuals can also consider donating money or goods/services to a local agency or nonprofit organization.
• Gillian Moxey, community relations coordinator, ChildNet Palm Beach County
• Berdie Duvelsaint, director of program services, Friends of Foster Children
• Florida Department of Children and Families