GREENSBURG — The next time a Decatur County child needs a safe, stable foster home in which to stay, he or she might not be able to remain close to home.
So explained Emily Hankins, supervisor of the Foster Care Unit of the Decatur County Department of Child Services (DCS).
In an interview last week, Hankins told the Daily News that, at the moment, all the county’s foster-care homes are full. Fortunately, Hankins explained at the time, there were no children waiting for placement, because DCS might be forced to seek options outside the county to find a viable foster-care home.
“There’s never enough foster homes,” she emphasized, adding that although some people sign up to “foster to adopt,” the far-more pressing need is for people “willing to foster on a temporary basis only.”
“We need people who are willing to take these kids as long as necessary,” she added. “That can be anywhere from overnight to several months.”
DCS regional foster care specialist Sarah Middendorf works closely with Hankins. The Decatur County office is required to create a monthly foster-parent recruitment plan, Middendorf explained. “We do one activity a month,” she said.
So what are Hankins, Middendorf and DCS looking for in a foster parent? Some readers might be surprised to learn being married isn’t required – nor is being in a relationship. Although it’s not the norm, single individuals are allowed to apply to become foster parents.
“We’re looking for someone dedicated and passionate, who can be flexible,” Middendorf said. “These kids are often involved in lots of services, requiring them to do things an average child might not have to do. Open mindedness is another thing we look for in foster parents.”
For the uninitiated, a “service” is any kind of court-ordered therapy, counseling or treatment session, visitation session with parents or family, or any other kind of special session designed to address a specific need for any given child in the DCS system. For example, a child might need extra help with school work; “there’s a service for that,” Middendorf said. Other types of services might include individual or family counseling, substance abuse treatment, independent living and life-skills courses, school-based counseling, and others.