Published 5:30 a.m. ET July 8, 2022 Updated 9:30 a.m. ET July 8, 2022
Marion County Children Services (MCCS) is reaching out to the community in hopes of attracting more families and individuals to become foster parents. Elizabeth Moore, foster care and community engagement coordinator, said there is a dire need for foster parents in Marion County.
“Our big priority is to make sure we have kids placed in local (foster) homes,” she said. “We currently have 33 foster homes (licensed in Marion County). We have 58 kids currently in foster care. As of April of this year, we have experienced a 20% decrease in the number of foster families from a year ago.”
According to statistics provided by Marion County Children Services, 281 children were placed in either foster or kinship care in 2021. The agency placed 103 children in foster care settings last year. Another 178 children were placed in kinship care with either family or friends.
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Cameron Phelps, who works in placement services at MCCS, explained some of the reasons why the agency has lost so many foster families from 2021 to 2022.
“We’ve lost a couple (of families) who have become adoptive families. We’ve lost a few who have moved out of state or who have just experienced changes to their own lifestyles,” Phelps said. “Some of our foster families don’t feel like they can keep taking kiddos due to just feeling overwhelmed. We more kiddos coming into care than we have foster families, so a lot of them are feeling burned out, exhausted, they feel like they’re being stretched too thin. Some of them don’t feel like they have enough support or resources here in Marion County.”
Phelps said Be the Village Marion is an organization that is committed to connecting with and supporting foster families and also engaging children’s birth families to help “break the cycle of abuse and neglect” the often leads to children being separated from their families.
“We’ve seen more organizations stepping up to provide resources and just give some support to families,” he said.
Moore said removing a child from their home is a last resort and only occurs if ordered by the court system. She noted that when a child is removed, the priority is to find a family member to place them with or a friend of the child’s family.
“A lot of people have this picture that abuse or neglect is reported and investigated and we just out and take a child and put them in a home with a family they’ve never met. That’s not how it works anymore,” Moore explained. “Our agency does a lot with kinship services. We have access to a program that helps us do extensive searches for family. So if I have to remove a child, the very first thing that we do is we ask that family, who is your support system. They may give us names and numbers of grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, someone they go to church with. We do everything that we can to minimize that trauma when we have to remove a child.”
Moore noted that children “have better outcomes when they’re able to maintain those community connections,” which is why MCCS seeks to place them in kinship care first.
Following removal of a child from their home, the goal, as mandated by the State of Ohio, is to reunify that child with their natural family, Moore said.
“We’re always trying to get kids back home, back in a safe home,” Moore said. “How can we help make that happen? We have resources here in (Marion County) that we’ll link families to — our biological families as well as our foster families. We do ask our foster families to be a part of that reunification.”
Moore said she wants to dispel some of the misconceptions that people might have about who is eligible to be a foster parent.
“I know that I’ve heard things like, I thought you had to be 21, or I thought you had to be married, or I thought you had to own your own home, and those things are just not true,” Moore said. “We want people to know that we are very accepting of a wide range of people when it comes to being foster parents. We have single moms. We have single dads. We have people who aren’t married that live together.
“We actually have a set of sisters who live with their parents and the sisters are the primary foster parents, but I know that the kids in their home get love from everyone,” she added. “So we have a lot of families that we can work with. We really want people to know that if they’ve ever considered (becoming foster parents), the best thing they can do is to call and ask.”
Marion County Children Services provides training for those interested in becoming foster parents.
“We host preservice training which is the required training to become a foster parent,” Moore said. “We host that at least twice a year locally. Then you have to have 40 hours (of training) every two years to maintain your (foster care) license. We also bring in training to help foster parents maintain their licenses.”
For information about becoming a foster parent, contact Elizabeth Moore at 740-386-0411 or by email at Elizabeth.Moore2@jfs.ohio.gov. Information is also available on the Marion County Children Services website at www.marionkids.com.
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