NEWLAND — Avery County Department of Social Services Director Barbara Jones spoke at a recent Avery County Board of Commissioners meeting about the county’s ongoing need for foster care homes.
There are currently a dozen foster homes in the county, and DSS could always use more.
Households may come in to the foster care program, eventually adopt a child through the program and choose to drop out, or in the case of one family that recently moved away after adopting several children, max out the capacity for their household.
“A lot of times people get into fostering in order to adopt, and so they don’t spend a lot of time in the program.” Jones said. “They’ll foster for a couple years and a child comes along that’s available for adoption, they adopt, then they decide they don’t want to foster. So you’re constantly having to recruit.”
Foster homes receive some compensation on a sliding scale for hosting children, but the families often spend more on the children than they receive, and Social Work Supervisor Raquel Jennings said she does not think anyone gets into foster care for the money.
“I think they do it just because they want to help kids,” Jennings said.
In the case of one woman who is currently a foster parent in the county, she felt called to be a foster parent because she herself was a foster child.
When the possibility of adoption comes up once parent rights have been terminated for a child, DSS has to see if there are family members that can care for a child before adoption by the foster family is an option.
When family is out of state, Jennings said the state where the family lives may not approve the placement of a child there.
Foster parents have to undergo training and be licensed through the state, and can specify children they want to foster based on age and sex. Finding foster parents willing to care for older children can be difficult.
“They don’t all have problems, but it’s not unusual that they have some issues that they need to resolve,” Jones said.
Jennings said caring for a normal teenager is already difficult, and children in foster care are taken from their homes, which is traumatic in itself, even if they are being removed from a bad situation.
Despite the challenges, some foster parents do well with troubled teenagers.
During an interview on Aug. 16, Jennings said there were only two spaces available in separate county foster homes, and DSS tries to not separate siblings.
If there are no suitable family or spots available in local foster homes or Crossnore School that can meet a child’s needs, DSS has to look for homes in nearby counties and widen its search until it can find something suitable or a spot opens up.
Jones said there have been instances when a child needs to remain observed in the DSS office while awaiting a placement. One teenager had to be housed at the office with 24-hour supervision for two weeks.
“We just keep jumping through those hoops until we find a place to put them,” Jennings said.
To qualify to take care of a child, someone has to pass a criminal background check. Felonies are disqualifying as well as some drug charges. Fingerprints are also taken in the process. Misdemeanors are not necessarily disqualifying.
Foster parents are licensed by household rather than individual.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent can call Avery County DSS at (828) 733-8230.