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DHR looking for foster parents

After a record year in adoptions, the Chilton County Department of Human Resources is making a push to recruit more foster parents in 2010.

They reported 26 adoptions between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, a significant increase over the previous year.

So far, there have been eight adoptions in 2010, and Chilton County DHR director Marilyn Colson anticipates at least 10 more this year.

Given that all 26 children were adopted by their foster parents, the agency wants to increase awareness throughout the state that more foster parents are needed.

Currently, there are 94 foster children and 34 foster homes in Chilton County, according to Colson.

The main priority is to continue finding children permanent homes, which all of the 26 children from last year found through DHR.

“The fact that there were so many foster parents willing to adopt, that’s awesome,” Colson said. “Statewide, the DHR focused on getting children permanent homes so children wouldn’t languish in the foster system.”

Along with foster home licensing worker Christy Haigler and the rest of the DHR staff, Colson is putting notices in newspapers, sending out mailings, creating displays at libraries and making other efforts to spread the word that they need new volunteers to take care of the children.

Their next parent training class begins March 4. Colson said it is a very intense, 10-week class where potential foster parents learn all aspects of fostering, including dealing with the children and what all to expect during the process.

“The state can’t raise children; families raise children,” Colson said. “We’re constantly talking about the need for parents. We can provide the policy and support, and we can help take the children to the doctor. But we need families for children to live with. That’s what they all want.”

Colson will make public appearances to speak to community groups, and the DHR will place adds on pizza boxes and post fliers in local stores to spread awareness. Colson wants as much repetition as it takes before potential parents finally heed the call.

“They say folks have to hear about it and think about it six times before they make the commitment,” she said. “It is the greatest mission a family or person can take on because it’s making a difference in the life of a child.”

She said there is a misconception about foster parents who only take on the responsibility for personal or financial gain. On the contrary, Colson insists, those who invest their time into raising a child for life prove a rich and thoughtful commitment.

She cites DHR’s hiring of an adoption specialist, Pam Callaghan Moore, as a reason the agency saw such an increase in adoptions. Colson also said she’s seen a firm commitment from the juvenile court system to finding permanency for the children as well hard work from the state, her agency and local judges.

If the children are not placed in local foster homes, the DHR places them in treatment facilities, such as King’s Ranch in Shelby County, Safety net in Montgomery or Pathway in Enterprise. The agency does all it can to keep the children in foster homes in Chilton County, though, she said.

Most children come to the agency’s attention typically when schools, law enforcement officials or neighbors, make reports on abuse and neglect. Colson said a pair of nagging problems leading to the placement of the children persists.

“There are two huge problems that fuel the need for care: drug use by the parents and sexual abuse,” she said. “The drug use is just rampant.”

To volunteer services or seek more information, residents can call the licensing worker Christy Haigler directly at 280-2060.

Foster parents must meet licensing standards, go through background checks and meet home safety guidelines. DHR works with the families of foster children for 12 to 18 months.

If birth parents cannot provide a safe home, the organization seeks the termination of parental rights. In cases where parents are making a clear effort to reunite with their children, the waiting period may be extended.