Greenfield Rotarians were asked to imagine Thursday having all their belongings packed into one bag, then being taken away someplace where everything was different and with no idea about when they would be able to return home to anything familiar.
Ronda McAdams with Highland County Children Services asked Rotary members to think about how difficult and frightening that would be for them as adults. Then, she said, imagine how much more so that would be for a child.
“These kids are scared,” she said of the local children removed from their homes and put into foster care.
These are kids that are in the local school system, and that Rotarians have likely seen at the grocery store or doctor’s office, McAdams said. “They are a part of our communities,” she said.
Currently, she said, there are about 105 children in foster care with only 15 licensed foster homes in Highland County. Greenfield has one licensed foster home, McAdams said.
As previously reported, the number of children in foster care and the associated costs have greatly increased over the last couple years. It cost the county about $1 million last year.
The “drug culture” has fed those increases, she said.
With more children in foster care than foster homes available locally, children are sent where places are available. McAdams said the bulk of the costs are due to residential facilities, which can cost up to $398 per day, depending on the needs of the child. And, having to place children out of the county in network foster homes also costs more, she said, than being able to place children locally. According to McAdams, Highland County children in foster care are placed “all over” the state.
She said whenever a child is removed from its home “reunification is always the number one goal.”
In an effort to reunify children with their families, the agency works with parents to help them gain the tools to remove the obstacles that previously hindered them from providing a safe and stable environment for their children.
McAdams provided a number of ways that people can help like by becoming a foster/adoptive parent, putting together care packages or “first night kits” for foster children, tutoring a foster child, or sponsoring a foster child’s music or dance lessons, and many other ways.
May is National Foster Care Month. According to nationalfostercare.org, it is “an opportunity for people all across the nation to focus attention on the year-round needs of American children and youth in foster care. The campaign raises awareness about foster care and encourages more citizens to get involved in the lives of these youth – whether as their foster parents, volunteers, mentors, employers, or in other ways.”
For more information about how you can help, or about how to become a foster or adoptive parent call Highland County Children Services at 937-393-3111.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.