In search of foster parents
Tennessee has an alarming 10,000 children who need foster care yet only 3,500 foster homes are available to render assistance. Scott Strable is a chaplain and “path-trainer” for ChildHelp USA. His responsibilities are to train, screen and educate adults who wish to become foster parents and are eager to find more participants in East Tennessee. “It’s a matter of making a difference in a person’s life, a difference that will follow them forever,” he stated.
Becoming a foster parent requires time, dedication and commitment, however the rewards are plentiful. The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) normally has custody of the child and will seek the help of agencies to find appropriate foster homes. The prospective parents must go through an application process including a background check, physical exam including blood work and fingerprinting. This is to insure that the families the children will be staying with are healthy and safe.
After the application process is completed an orientation meeting will be conducted to answer any questions. This is where the financial issues are addressed as well as any concerns from both parties.
Once the first two steps are completed, the potential parents attend nine sessions of “path-training.” This is where they learn how to parent a child who is in the system. “Being a parent to a child you have given birth to and being a parent to one of these children are two different things,” replied Strable. These children are often victims of neglect, trauma, and abuse or merely in emotional turmoil due to being taken out of their home. They bring with them emotions and behaviors that are unlike other children. It can tear a traditional family apart if not properly educated and trained. Appropriate discipline, bonding, attachment disorders and survival behaviors are some of the topics discussed at the sessions. Once completed, the families are treated to a graduation ceremony with a meal and certificate. “These are truly special people and they deserve special treatment,” said Strable of his foster families he’s trained. “They are a blessing to a child and we appreciate them immensely.”
After the foster parents graduate, they will go through a home study with the agency. Interviews with both spouses as well as all the children in the home will be conducted. All aspects of the home will be checked including finances and backgrounds of all residing in the home. Finally, a stamp of approval will be given and a mutual selection process will begin to find a suitable home for a child in need.
The DCS’s number one objective is reunification of the troubled family. Foster parenting is merely a temporary situation for almost all children involved. However, due to the passing of a new law, biological parents must create a healthy living environment for their child within a designated time frame or face losing all rights as parents. This is to prevent children from being in the system for an extended length of time.
“Give a child the opportunities that you once had,” pleaded Strable in seeking additional candidates for the foster care program. “It takes a great ministry and sacrifice but the end result can make a difference in a human being.”
If interested in more information about becoming a foster parent in the area, please call ChildHelp USA at 579-5498