Event will shine a light on need for foster parents

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 16, 2015

By Morgan Mizell

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ Katie Foster, resource specialist with the Mississippi Department of Human Services, division of family and children in Natchez, has more than 20 years experience assisting families in difficult times. Her specific role now is to find safe and stable homes for children who have been removed from their parent(s) custody.

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May is Foster Parent Awareness month and Foster is hosting a picnic-style event at Duncan Park on May 29 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

There is an increased need for homes to place children. Currently, there are more than 30 children in need of placement, with only 13 licensed resource homes available. This event will be a time where those who have considered becoming a foster/resource parent can mingle with those who are already serving in that capacity, and to ask any and all questions they may have.

“There is a lot to consider when someone signs up to become a foster/resource parent,” Foster said. “It is not something everyone is able to do, as we have seen during the licensing process.”

The ultimate goal of the office is to reunite children with their birth parent(s) if and when possible. As that is not always an option, other family members become the next choice.

“If the birth family can not take the child, we look at relatives, who have to be licensed as well,” Foster said. “Sometimes, the relatives are not able to take the children either, and at that point, we look at resource homes and later, there is a possibility of adoption.”

Foster explained some families wish to only adopt children, and they usually have to wait longer, as in this case, they have to wait until all rights of the birth parents have been terminated.

“We are looking for a diverse group of resource parents, who do not mind taking in older children and/or sibling groups,” Foster said. “These two groups are generally more difficult to place, and we make every effort to find placement for them as close to home as we can, so they can continue their lives with as much normalcy as possible.”

Finding homes with the same cultural backgrounds as the children can also prove challenging; however, no child is denied a home based on differences of this kind.

The Natchez office services 8 counties, and has, at times, had to call outside of Adams County to find placement for children.

“We have limited resource homes here, and once we have exhausted our resources in this area, we have to look elsewhere for homes for the children,” Foster said. “We don’t like to move children once we have them placed, unless they are being reunited with their birth parents.”

The criteria for becoming a foster/resource parent include being at least 21 years of age; single or married; a resident of the state of Mississippi; passing a background check; and completion of 27 hours of foster parent training, home study and home visits.

“The process usually takes 3 to 6 months to complete,” Foster said. “We have to make sure the homes are safe for the children, and the parent(s) are going to be able to accommodate the child or children they will care for.”

After completion of the licensing process, families are further interviewed to find out what children they are best suited to care for, before placement occurs.

“We like to have the foster/resource families fully informed.” Foster said. “We want don’t want to give someone more than they can handle and have the placement disrupt, and we want them to know what is expected of them. We want it to be as positive an experience as possible.”

Foster sees her role in the foster/resource process as a personal challenge.
“It is my personal goal to secure safe and nurturing foster parents for these children who have been abused and/or neglected,” Foster said. “I am rewarded when I see the difference it makes in both the children and foster parent’s lives.”

For Boris and Cynthia Montgomery, being foster/resource parents is a spiritual calling. At present, they are caring for three teenagers and an infant.

“The Lord told me a little more than two years ago, that I needed to get back into foster parenting, because the children needed to know Christ,” Cynthia Montgomery said. “I had been a foster parent before, in the late 90’s, but I wanted to get involved again because I knew the children needed positive role models. I just continued to pray about it.”

Cynthia said she has always loved children, and the children in her neighborhood have always felt comfortable hanging out at her house. They are currently fostering their third child of a different ethnicity.

“I just love people, and we have no racial tensions in our home,” Montgomery said. “I learned a lot from my mother who was a foster parent. I try to comfort these children who come to me, and make sure they know that they are no different than other children around them.”

Boris, Cynthia’s husband, doesn’t get to spend as much time with the children because of his job; however, he enjoys them being in the house.
“They call me ‘Pops,’” Boris Montgomery said. “I try to keep them smiling, but it is really an inspiring thing to have them in the house.

The Montgomery’s have shared many experiences with the children including proms, driving lessons, and graduations.

“I want them to have the same experiences as other children, and to know that what is going on is not their fault,” Cynthia said. “Sometimes, the kids lose hope behind what is going on in their lives, and we encourage them and push them a little. It is rewarding to see them reach milestones in their lives.”

For the Montgomery’s, being foster parents is just part of who they are.
“I think we will do this until we can not do it,” Cynthia said. “I will continue as long as God allows me to do so.”

Anyone wanting more information about becoming a foster/resource parent can contact Katie Foster at her office by calling 601-442-2882.