SALEM, Ore. The lack of qualified homes available to traumatized children is the largest it’s been in Years. Nearly 11,000 kids needed Foster care services at some level in 2016. At that time only 50 percent of homes were available last April according to the Department of Human Services . Because so few homes are out there children are bouncing from one foster home to another. Often times siblings are split up. The average time a child is in Foster Care is 19 months. Children that end up in foster care are usually under school age, the next group is teenagers and then sibilings who want to stay together.
Last year the state lost 400 foster homes. Foster parents like Justin Lucia and his wife hate to see that. The young couple has had 10 short tem placements ranging from 2 days to 2 months . Then Jordan and his sister Khalaya arrived in the Lucia household… a course of events led to the family adopting the siblings. Since there adoption Justin and his wife have opened their home to other needy kids.
Understanding the need was great to pull more willing families into the Foster Family pool. The Oregon Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division paired up with the Oregon association of Broadcasters to produce a public service announcement for radio and television state wide. The announcements have produced modest results. The outreach is better when it focus on the need town by town around the state. DHS is encouraged by the number of new families willing to give their time and love.
How to Get Started
Step 1: Find out More
DHS offers in person orientation and other informational sessions to becoming a certified foster parent. Orientation and information sessions are great opportunities to talk with staff and ask questions. If you are interested in first reading more online, feel free to review the Foster Parent Orientation manual. The information in this manual is covered in the in person foster parent orientation. To find out when orientation is happening near you, contact your local DHS Child Welfare branch.
Find out more about foster care and foster parenting in the following videos.
- What is Foster Care?
- The Beal Family Story – Oregon Foster Care Adoption
- Mandatory Reporting
Still have questions? Request more information by doing one of the following:
- Contact your local DHS Child Welfare office. Request to speak with a certification staff to gather more information.
- Call 1-800-331-0503. A foster care specialist will answer your initial questions and give you the contact name of a DHS contact in your county.
- Would you like information sent to you? Complete and submit an online inquiry.
Step 2: Make the Decision
Becoming a foster parent will bring big changes to your life. It is essential that every member of your household considers what this journey will mean to them. In thinking through this great decision, here are a list of questions that may help you in your decision making:
- Does everyone in our family believe that foster care or adoption is right for us?
- Do we have friends or family that will support us in this decision?
- Do we practice non-physical forms of discipline?
- Do we have adequate space in our home for a child?
- Is there an age group or gender that would work best with our family? Would we be open to taking sibling groups?
- Are there special needs a child may have that we would not be comfortable taking on
Not Sure if you are Ready to Take the Step to be a Foster Parent? There Are Other Ways You Can Help!
Even if today you cannot commit to becoming a foster parent or if foster parenting is not for you, there are other ways you can help in your community.
- Contact your local DHS Child Welfare office for volunteer opportunities.
- Every Child Oregon can also help connect you with additional volunteer opportunities.
Step 3: Attend Foundations Training for Caregivers
DHS offices around Oregon offer a series of classes designed to prepare prospective and current caregivers for parenting children who have experienced abuse or neglect. The training is a 24 hour curriculum called Foundations. Topics include:
- The importance of birth families
- Child Development and the impact of abuse
- Behavior management
- How to apply effective child rearing practices
- Discipline vs punishment
- Understanding the effects of abuse, neglect and trauma on children
- Valuing the child’s heritage
The delivery and offering of trainings varies between different counties -some are offered during the weeknight evenings and others on the weekend. To find the Foundations training that best fits you, contact a training coordinator.
Step 4: Complete an Application
Submitting a completed application to the local DHS Child Welfare office is the first step in beginning the official journey. A certifier will be assigned to review your application and discuss next steps with you. You will need to complete some paperwork available through your local DHS office; the assigned certifier will provide these documents to you. You will also be required to provide contact information for at least four references.
Every adult member in your household will need to consent to criminal history and child abuse background checks.
Step 5: Have a SAFE (Structured Analysis Family Evaluation) home study
The SAFE home study is a comprehensive assessment of you and your ability to provide for the health, safety and wellbeing for children who may be placed in your home. A certifier is assigned to do the home study. The process begins a series of interviews, home visits, meeting your children and others who may also live in your home, safety/fire inspections and sometimes medical information from your doctor.
Once a positive home study has been completed, this information is used by staff to determine placement matching between a child and family.
Step 6: Accepting a Child
Once paperwork and background checks are complete and the home study is approved, your certifier will discuss placement of a child(ren) in your home.
Working together with DHS, you will decide which children best suit your family and home. Before a child comes into your home, you will be given information about the child to help you decide if the placement is right for you.
Step 7: Home Visits from Caseworkers, Certifiers, and Others
After a child is placed in your home, you can except regular home visit contacts with the child’s caseworker. Caseworkers are required to see the children monthly, with being at least every other month in your home. The caseworker will want to spend time separately with the child and with you.
Your certifier is required to be in your home at least every six months or more often depending on specific circumstances.
Both the child’s caseworker and your certifier can assist you in locating services needed by the child, for your family, or by answering questions.
When the child enters your home, there are several required assessments that you need to be aware of:
- Within 72 hours a DHS Child Welfare Contracted Nurse will come to your home to provide a preliminary health assessment of the child. You will be provided with information regarding any treatment recommendations.
- Within 20 days of placement, the caseworker will refer the child for a Child and Adolescent Needs and Strength (CANS) Assessment. The CANS screening will occur within 60 days of placement. A CANS screening is a process of integrating information on a child’s needs and strengths for the purposes of case planning, service planning and determining the supervision needs of the child.
- Within 30 days of placement, the child must have a complete health assessment with a primary healthcare provider and a dental exam and cleaning. You may be asked by the child’s caseworker to schedule this appointment. Tip Sheet: Required Health Assessments for Children Entering Foster Care
- Within 60 days of placement, a child must be seen for a Mental Health Assessment (ages 3+) or Early Intervention Assessment (ages 0-3). The child’s caseworker will make the referral for the appropriate assessment and you may be contacted to schedule the appointment.
- If the child is prescribed any medication, you must document the dosage and frequency on a Medication Log. Tip Sheet: Important Information about Giving Foster Child Medication
Others visiting your home: If the child is assigned a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or attorney, these individuals will make contact with you to discuss the child and may request to meet with you and the child in your home. If the child is referred for specific services, these service providers will also make contact with you and may request to meet with you and the child in your home.
Step 8: Next Steps
All certified foster families are required to complete ongoing training during each two year licensing period. There are several opportunities for continued training and resources – visit our training page for further details or ask your certifier.
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