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Aug. 25, 2004

DSS Is Looking for Families to Care for Foster and Adoptive Children

"You answer the door. A child stands before you, flanked by a caseworker and a couple of hastily packed bags. Even the uninitiated can discern the telltale signs of fear, anger, guilt, and disillusionment. The child may have suffered the effects of abuse or neglect. For a variety of reasons, the child's family cannot care for him or her at this time. No matter how many times you do this, it is never easy. You square your shoulders and prepare to give it your best."

Jean Edley coordinates the foster and adoptive parenting programs for the Oswego County Department of Social Services. She describes what it's like when a child arrives at a foster home for the first time.

"The child steps into your home needing more than most people can imagine, but also needing what you are trained and willing to give."

Foster parents are needed in Oswego County to provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment for children who are temporarily unable to reside at home. Foster parents work closely with birth families, caseworkers, law guardians and other human services professionals to make it possible for children to return home when the issues leading to the placement have been addressed.

"As a foster parent, you wear many hats including parent, teacher, nurse, advisor, referee and confidante. You may serve as a mentor for the birth family. It's challenging, at times frustrating, but ultimately a very rewarding experience," said Christina Moses, president of the Foster and Adoptive Parent Association of Oswego County. "The Social Services Department provides a great deal of support to help people be successful foster and adoptive parents."

Most children are in care less than one year, according Frances Lanigan, Commissioner of Social Services.

"A diligent effort is made to reunite the child with their birth family," said Lanigan. "If this is not possible, other options are considered such as having the child live with relatives, or become part of a new family through adoption."

Children who are awaiting adoption through the Department of Social Services have been in care for a longer period of time. The children are typically eight years of age or older. Most have special needs based on their past experiences.

Edley said there are 150 to 180 children in foster care from Oswego County at any given time. About half of the children live with certified foster families in the community. The other half live in residential or congregate care settings outside of the county, making it difficult to maintain frequent contact with their birth family and to work on the issues that lead to the placement. Trends demonstrate that the further away from home a child is placed, the longer the stay in foster care tends to be. "Some children in care outside of Oswego County could live with a local foster family if more homes were available" said Lanigan. "Foster families are needed throughout Oswego County, particularly for children age 12 and over."

"If someone has the time and dedication to influence a young person's life and provide them with a safe and secure home, it is one of the greatest gifts you can give," said Oswego County Legislator Barbara Brown, chairwoman of the Social Services Committee. "I would ask anyone in a position to make a commitment to children and families facing serious difficulties to consider becoming a foster parent. I've seen first-hand what can happen to a child, and the positive impact this program can make in a child's life."

The Legislature's Social Services Committee oversees the Department of Social Services. Other committee members include Paul Santore, District 16, Oswego; Clayton Brewer, District 24, Fulton, Granby; Michael Kunzwiler, District 18, Oswego; Arthur Ospelt, District 12, Schroeppel, Hastings; and Carl Rusaw, District 11, Volney.

An informational meeting for people interested in foster and adoptive parenting will be held Saturday, Sept. 11, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Oswego County Department of Social Services, located on the corner of Route 3 and Spring Street in Mexico. The informational meeting will help people decide if they wish to enroll in the the 10-week pre-certification training, "Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting - Group Selection Process." The training will be offered from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday mornings from Sept. 18 through Nov. 20. Both people in a two-parent household must attend the training in order to be certified. Single as well as two-parent families may apply to become foster or adoptive parents.

For more information, contact Nancy Clark at 598-4642 ext. 46, Carol Vincent at 963-5534 or Jean Edley at 963-5373, e-mail jean@oswegocounty.com.

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