by Taniesa L. Sullivan | www.TheWeeklyLedgerNews.com
CHEROKEE COUNTY, AL- The pandemic put, even more, stress on the foster care system. Right now, the state has almost 6,000 children in the foster care system. To become a foster parent the state requires a ten-week course.
The Cherokee County DHR just began the new ten-week course for foster and adoptive parents. It is offered every Thursday from 5:30-8:30.
"We try to have two courses a year if we have enough families interested.", said Shenequa Holston, Resource Worker at the Cherokee County department.
"There are clearances and education, and a lot of work goes in and commitment into being a foster parent," explained Karen Smith, DHR's Deputy Commissioner of Family Services.
In the end, some children will end up being adopted by their foster parents:
In 2020 there were 814 adopted and in 2021 there were 783 adopted.
But Smith says about 71% are eventually returned to their families after helping those families through a crisis.
"We want to intervene prior to a child being abused or neglected," says Smith.
There was an upward trend in foster kids during the pandemic like most of the rest of the nation experienced.
Now the numbers are trending down, but still, there is a great need.
"We need loving individuals who will take these children in and treat them like their own," remarked Smith.
And she adds, not just for the babies and toddlers. "The teenagers are my heart and soul. They're the ones I am more drawn to," says Smith.
Holston told The Weekly Ledger News, "In Cherokee County, there are only 18 foster homes, compared to Calhoun which has 50, DeKalb has 49, and Etowah which has 63."
True, Cherokee County is smaller but currently, they have 22 children in foster care. So, Cherokee County DHR is needing more families willing to open their hearts and homes and help foster.
Holston says, Calhoun County has 266 children in foster care, DeKalb County has 104, and Etowah County has 210. If you look at the comparison it would look like Cherokee County is doing great when it comes to the children who need a home. But most teens that come into care in Cherokee County are placed outside the county due to the lack of foster homes being able to take in teenagers.
"So, there is such a big need for foster homes that are willing to help the teenagers that we take into care," explained Holston.
As an effort to recruit more foster parents, the Cherokee County DHR staff members and children have painted rocks and hidden them around the Cherokee County communities.
It's their "Cherokee County Foster Parents Rock" scavenger hunt. So, be on the lookout for these rocks, admire their beauty, and then pass them along to friends and family who may be interested in opening their homes and hearts to foster.
They will be posting pictures as hints to where you may be able to find these rocks. So, you will need to follow their Facebook page for the hints.
"YOU" Could be a Foster Parent if…
You are at least 19 years of age.
You can provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the child.
Your home conforms to the Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes.
Your home has enough space for the child and his or her belongings.
All members of your family are willing to share their home with a child who needs care.
All members of your family are in good health.
All adults in the home are willing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.
So, if you are interested in opening your heart and home to a child and becoming a foster parent you can contact Brandi Tucker at (256) 927-1440 or email Cherokee@dhr.alabama.gov.