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Faith & Family: Foster parents sought in SW Mississippi

NATCHEZ — A few years ago, Kim Lindsey and her husband David met a child who needed a little help in life.

“We fell in love with a child in temporary foster care, and that is what made us seek to be licensed foster parents,” she said.

“We kept her for almost two years, and she was recently reunited with her mother, but we still get her and her sibling every weekend. They are just kind of part of our family now.”

The mother has become like a daughter to the Lindsey family, and the two siblings are like grandchildren now, Lindsey said.

“You fall in love with them,” she said. “It definitely becomes a calling.”

The Mississippi Department of Human Services’ Division of Family and Children’s Services is looking for more families like the Lindseys. In March, the department will begin a new push to recruit foster parents to care for children who have been temporarily removed from the custody of their parents for abuse or neglect, resource specialist Katie Foster said.

Approximately 150 children are in DHS custody at the moment, but the eight-county region has only 65 licensed foster homes.

“Our goal is to have more foster parents than we have foster children, because we would like to better match our children with our families,” Foster said.

“Our goal is to keep all of the children in the same community they are from, so they won’t have to leave their homes, their schools, their friends, their environment they are used to.”

The key component the DHS is looking for is someone who has a real, genuine concern for children, Foster said.

“A lot of times they have certain characteristics, they’re people who have successfully raised children on their own, empty nesters calling and saying, ‘My children are gone and I need to be doing more,’” she said. “I hear people talk about their spirituality, also. They say it is a calling as a reason they become resource parents.”

Becoming a foster parent takes approximately three months and requires the completion of 27 hours of foster parent training.

Potential foster parents have to pass a background check and a home study, have a room for a child and be able to prove they can provide for themselves.

“In addition to caring for the child, as a foster parent, we expect you to be on our team,” Foster said. “If the children are removed from their parents, we try to work for reunification with the parents, and you would be part of that.”

Foster parenting also requires flexibility.

“We never know what the situation is going to be and what type of children we are going to get until the situation arises,” Foster said. “You may, as a foster parent, get a call that we have four children, a sibling group, who range from 16 to 4, and would you consider placing all of them in your home.”

Sibling groups are often the most difficult to place, Foster said.

Other difficult-to-place groups a willing foster parent could be especially helpful with include teenagers, sexually abused children, children with psychological development issues, children who act out aggressively, children with medical needs, pregnant girls and teen moms, she said.

Being willing to help has been worth it, said foster parent Gerri Faniel, who has provided a temporary home to approximately a dozen children through the years.

“I wanted to help in some way, to give back, and the experience has been great,” Faniel said. “My reward is the children, providing a roof over their heads, food and making sure they are clean, that is the goal for me, but the best thing is if the families can work through what they are dealing with and the children can return to them.”

Being a foster parent is about taking care of the community, Faniel said, and is not about taking a child away from their parents.

“We are just that person who wants to help until you are through what you are going through and you can feel safe and your children can feel safe and well-cared for,” she said.

For more information, call Foster or Alfreda Knight at 601-442-2882 or 1-800-821-9157.