Local foster families always needed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 30, 2010

NATCHEZ — Raising children isn’t an easy task, just ask any parent.

But stepping in and raising children taken out of dangerous home situations or who don’t have a family to love them is a special calling.

Foster families answer that calling every time they open their home and hearts to a new child.

“There is a misconception that foster families get into foster care because of the money,” said Joe Mitchell, director of development at Natchez Children’s Home Services, a local not-for-profit agency that facilitates foster family placements in the region. “There is not enough money in the subsidy that they get every month to cover the expenses of raising a child, much less to have them profit from it.

“Foster families are a special kind of person with a heart for service.”

Local agencies have a constant need for qualified and willing foster families because there is no predicting when the next child will require emergency placement.

Stacy Havard, a case manager at the Chil, said the goal is to remove children from a threatening home environment and quickly place them in a stable foster environment. For that to happen, trained and certified foster families must be available.

“We never know when we will get the next phone call,” she said.

Before a family can accept a foster child, they must be trained and certified through the state, Havard said.

Training includes home visits, background checks, pre-service training that includes exposure to the types of abuse or neglect children might have been exposed to, ongoing training and therapy services.

“We always over share,” NCHS social worker Jackie Eidt said. “Often times we don’t know exactly what situations these children have been in, but we can say this is what you might see.

“It is not our way to shield families from what children might bring with them.”

Foster placement is meant to be temporary and an eventual placement back with the biological family is the goal, Eidt said. She said often times, letting foster children return to a biological family is hard for foster families.

But, in the end, it is what is best for the children, that has to be the common goal for foster families and placement agencies.

“We believe that God hard-wired us to be with our biological family,” Eidt said.

For seasoned foster mother Daisy Gaines fostering was her way of impacting the lives of children. She said the most important characteristic for a foster parent has to be a willing heart.

“You have to want to help,” she said. “Above anything you have to want to help those kids.”

For Gaines she knows she couldn’t continue fostering children without the support system of friends, family and professional services, especially after her husband died just two months ago.

“One of my daughters said ‘I’m not going to question you, because I know this is what you are meant to do,’” she said. “All of my family is here to help, and they love the children just like I do.”

Former foster mother Diane Rice, who, with her husband Mike, adopted two children they fostered, said flexibility was key.

“Children come in from different backgrounds with different experiences,” Rice said. “You have to be able to adjust to that without compromising your family values or impacting others in the house.”

More than anything Rice said potential foster families have to be confident about their abilities.

“I don’t understand why people say they can’t do it,” she said. “There are hard times, but if you have a heart for children then you can do it.

“We always knew God would give us the strength.”

For more information about becoming a foster parent contact Eidt or Havard at 601-442-6858.