05/31/04 — Foster parents needed

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Foster parents needed

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 31, 2004 1:58 PM

Wayne County's celebration of "Foster Parents Month" ends today. The need for foster parents does not.

The Department of Social Services has increasingly had to remove children from homes while it investigates, or tries to remediate, reports of abuse or neglect. For the last year, the county has typically had 70 to 80 children in foster care. There were 82 as of the end of April.

Usually, the department tries to place children temporarily with relatives or close family friends, said Rebecca Rouse, supervisor for adoptions. But those options aren't always available. Social Services is constantly recruiting prospective foster parents for its twice-a-year training programs.

Two foster mothers agreed recently to talk about their experiences during an interview at the Social Services' annex building on U.S. 117.

Carolyn Jackson Barnes was caring for a 5-year-old grandson and felt he needed companions, she said. She ended up taking in three brothers.

"It was nothing I planned to continue," the Goldsboro woman said.

But Social Services kept calling and she kept accepting. She has had around 100 children under her care in the past 13 or 14 years. Typically, she's had seven at any one time in her home.

The commitment keeps her busy getting children to and from school, physicals, eye exams and all the other time commitments, she said.

"My calendar is full. Things seem to work out if everything is planned and kept on schedule," she said. She even blocks off time for each child to have the bathroom to himself.

Fostering fills a void in Mrs. Barnes' life, she said. "I always wanted a household of children."

She has adopted six children over the years, including three recently.

Angela Corbett said she has a different approach from Mrs. Barnes.

"I don't know how you do it with six kids. I'd have all my hair pulled out," she said with a laugh.

The Mount Olive resident has been a foster parent for two years. She had wanted to do it because she and her husband had planned to adopt a child and fostering is one path.

Social worker Lyda Fultz explained that her department always prefers to return children to their homes, but that may not be possible or in the children's best interest. Usually, Social Services is also planning for the possibility of adoption.

The goal is to have the children in a permanent home within a year, Ms. Fultz said. Often, foster parents make good candidates for adoption.

In the past two years, Mrs. Corbett has housed several children, including some teenagers. The teens can be especially challenging, she said. "I've had a couple I wish that I had never met."

The county runs a criminal check on anyone applying to be a foster parent, said social worker Terry Harne. Then they must go through a 10-week training program that's offered twice a year.

The process typically screens out people who are half-hearted about being a foster parent. Only 17-18 of the original 43 applicants this spring are expected to finish the current training.

Foster parents must be willing to open their homes for regular inspections. Fire safety plans need to be posted. A dresser and bed is required for each child.

The county pays a monthly stipend per child, but it doesn't cover actual expenses.

Anyone wanting more information on foster parenting can call Lyda Fultz, 731-1093, or Terry Harne, 731-1097.