May may be National Foster Care Awareness Month, but there’s no doubt that foster families are needed all year round.
The numbers fluctuate, but every day in Kentucky alone, there are more than 9,000 foster children.
For those interested in becoming a host family, there are several agencies that serve the Lake Cumberland area.
One such agency, SAFY of Somerset, specializes in therapeutic foster care and receives referrals from the Kentucky Department of Community Services (DCBS). SAFY office manager Jennifer Thrasher estimated that the local office — which serves most of southeast Kentucky — handles more than 200 cases a year.
“The difference between a therapeutic foster agency and DCBS is that the young people in our care receive in-home therapy services,” Thrasher explained. “They receive therapy from a licensed counselor as well as case management services.”
Considering DCBS and other private agencies in the area, Thrasher offered “a low estimate” of more than 1,000 local children who would now be in foster care.
“I think it’s important to raise awareness,” added Stephanie Justice, SAFY foster parent recruiter. “There are a lot of people interested in becoming foster parents, but they may not really know how to go about it.”
“I think the big problem with foster care is that when people think about it, they want to help and know there’s a need, but they’re afraid they’re not good enough to help. help,” Thrasher continued. “Really, the most important thing about foster care is that you just have to try. You just have to be someone who is willing to show love, a little patience and give giving some children the care and structure they’ve never had before. . It only takes one person to change a life.”
Justice noted that those who might think they won’t qualify because of something in their past can often be the best when it comes to dealing with children.
“They need someone who you can relate to and who can learn from the mistakes they may have made or just sympathize with them,” she said, adding that one one of the main objectives was to recruit adoptive parents ready to welcome teenagers. “The majority of the children we care for are in their teens. I think that can be intimidating to a lot of people, but they really need someone who can stand up for them and be there for them.”
Recently, SAFY began hosting weekly virtual information sessions to answer questions about how to become a foster parent. Most agencies have their own curriculum as well as state eligibility requirements and will work with prospective foster parents through the process.
“We can get them through in 60 to 90 days,” explained Kendra Barton, SAFY Family Development Specialist. “Our courses are flexible around their schedules. … We are very active with our foster parents in terms of support and help with the licensing process.”
To better spread the message, SAFY partnered with several local businesses throughout the month to display posters or other promotional items, such as personalized coffee pouches featuring a QR code linking to the SAFY website. Others lit blue bulbs at night, representing adopted children.
To learn more about SAFY, visit www.safey.org or call 606-679-1815.