Enthusiastic turnout buoys hopes to turn around Moffat County foster parent shortage | CraigDailyPress.com

Enthusiastic turnout buoys hopes to turn around Moffat County foster parent shortage

About 20 people came to an open house Monday at the Moffat County Department of Social Services to seek information about becoming a foster parent — and to provide support

Michael Neary

Keith and Michelle Balleck listen in during a meeting for prospective foster parents Monday night at the Moffat County Department of Social Services.

— Cammy Winder's desire to become a foster parent was nourished when she was a teenager — and when she received help from a family who took her in during a tough time.

"It changed everything about my life, and I want to be able to do that for other kids," she said after a meeting Monday night for prospective foster parents. "I feel like I was given a gift, and I can give a gift, too."

Winder was among about 20 people who attended an open house Monday night at the Moffat County Department of Social Services focusing on foster parenting. The county is grappling with a shortage of foster families, with four certified families — each caring for a child — and six children placed in residential facilities out of the county.

"I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout and grateful for the community support we had there," said Lauren Rising, foster care coordinator for the Moffat County Department of Social Services. She noted the presence not only of prospective foster parents, but also of people who belong to community organizations and who seek to provide support.

Rising reviewed some requirements for foster parents during the open house, and she discussed the training parents would need to receive. She also fielded questions.

"What do you want to see from us?" asked one person in attendance.

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Rising and Nicole Shatz, case manager supervisor for the Moffat County Department of Social Services, emphasized that the tent for foster parents is a large one.

Rising described a need for "a range of foster parents who will accept (children of) different ages," noting a particular need for people open to taking care of older children. But she added: "If you just want the younger ones, we'll take you for sure."

Shatz reiterated that foster parents could fall into a variety of situations "as long as (they offer) a safe home that's able to provide for the kids."

Rising described the tolls the current shortage of foster parents can take on children, noting a host of disadvantages to placing children outside of the county. She and others mentioned a financial cost to the county for placing children outside of the community, but Monday's focus was on the effect such placement has on children.

"You're taking them out of their community," Rising said. "You're taking them out of their school, and you're taking them away from their friends, family members and other supports they might have in the community."

It's also harder to facilitate reunification, Rising noted, when the children are staying outside of the county — particularly since family therapy is hard to conduct under those conditions.

Rising said people who can provide respite care are also needed. These adults would care for children for short periods of time — up to seven days or so — during an emergency or another situation when short-term care is needed. They'd undergo the same certification procedure as other foster parents.

Winder, as she reflected on her desire to become a foster parent, contemplated the way taking in a foster child might affect her own children. She and her husband have two children, ages 8 and 6.

"My children live a very happy and comfortable life," Winder said after the meeting. "Part of my fear is them not having empathy for children who don't have what they have, and so this could be a very good way (to help them) learn compassion and empathy."

Michelle Balleck, at the open house with her husband Keith Balleck, came to the gathering fully aware of the shortage of foster parents in the county. She, too, is interested in becoming a foster parent.

"I have friends who work at social service, and I hear lots of stories about the needs (of children) and how we have not been meeting them locally," she said. "That's where my heart is — to help kids — and what better way than to give them a stable place to live."

County Commissioner Frank Moe, present at Monday's meeting, praised Dollie Rose and other Moffat County Department of Social Services staff members for their outreach work. Rose became director of the department this past summer.

"I think it would be super once we could take care of our own (children) locally," added Moe, who acts as liaison for the Moffat County Board of Commissioners to the Department of Social Services.

People unable to make Monday's meeting and interested in more information about becoming a foster parent can call Rising at 970-824-8282, ext. 2047.