By MaryAnn Kromer
Last Wednesday, five families gathered at Job and Family Services for the annual Seneca County Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner.
Foster care licensing specialist Crystal Brady made the arrangements. Bob Evans donated a portion of the dinner, and Phat Cakes provided cupcakes for all the children at the event.
Brady said foster care is a temporary, safe alternative home and family for children who cannot safely live in their own home. Some foster children have been abused or neglected. Others may have special physical or educational needs.
"In most circumstances, sibling are kept together. If for some reason this is not possible, the agency will attempt to place them geographically close to each other and arrange as much visitation and contact as allowed," Brady said.
Foster parents can be single, co-parents or married. They can own or rent a home, Foster parents must be at least 21 years of age, be in good physical and mental health, submit to criminal background checks, have stable finances and sufficient living and sleeping space.
To obtain a foster care license, adults must complete all application forms, attend 36 hours of pre-service training, provide personal references, complete a home safety inspection, provide a social history, participate in home interviews with all household members and complete a physical assessment.
Brady said it can take up to six months to become a licensed foster home. Families are certified for two years then go through a re-certification process.
"We are very fortunate to have many families that enjoy what they do and have continued to provide excellent care and compassion to children in our community. Currently, our longest serving foster parents are Jim and Kathy Siegel, who have been providing a compassionate home and support to children in our community for 10 years," Brady said.
At the dinner, the Siegels received a plaque, donated by Bair Brothers, to recognize their efforts to help area children. Field of Dreams Drive In donated passes for all the foster families to enjoy a movie night.
Most families choose to become foster parents out of a desire to provide a safe home for children, Brady said. Other reasons may be companionship for one's own child, a desire to nurture children or a desire to adopt,
"We have been able to be a part of many successful adoptions with our foster families. During the year 2012, we had four children adopted through our agency. Currently our agency has one child in permanent custody. Since 2010, the agency has finalized 17 adoptions," Brady said.
Job and Family Services provides ongoing training to all foster parents, who are required to complete 40 hours of additional training each year. These trainings allow each foster parent to become more knowledgeable with issues children and parents deal with on an ongoing basis.
If no foster family is available when the need arises, Brady contacts neighboring counties or network homes for placement. Network homes are foster homes licensed by the State of Ohio but maintained by private non-public agencies.
"Unfortunately children placed outside of our local homes face more obstacles and do not adjust as well, because they are not only being removed from their home but also their community, school and friends," Brady said.
Anyone interested in adopting or becoming a licensed foster parent should contact Brady at (419) 447-5011, ext 375.