526 Area Children In Out-Of-Home Care, But Not Nearly Enough Foster Families
By Mike Perleberg
(Versailles, Ind.) – There is a critical need for foster parents in southeastern Indiana.
“Most of the homes in the region are currently full or have only one bed open, meaning that anytime a sibling group comes into care, we are either looking at splitting the children up or placing them farther away from home,” says Sara Middendorf, licensing coordinator for National Youth Advocate Program, Inc. office in Versailles.
The office is contracted by the Indiana Department of Child Service to help place children with foster families in six area counties: Dearborn, Decatur, Jefferson, Ohio, Rush, and Switzerland.
DCS data shows there were 526 local children in out-of-home care this past October. Of those, more than 230 kids had to be placed in a foster home outside of their home county.
On average, a child remains out of their normal home for 356 days. Middendorf says many will be in out-of-home care for a few days, but some are in the foster care system for years depending on the child’s home situation.
Many of those children are part of sibling groups of two or more. In the region, 44 of the sibling groups had to be split apart during a tumultuous time.
“This means they were not only removed from their parents, but also separated from siblings,” says Middendorf.
The National Youth Advocate Program currently has 11 foster families in its southeastern Indiana district. There are about 80 area families licensed through the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Middendorf encourages anybody who can become a foster parent to consider it. Qualifications to become a licensed foster parent include being 21 or older, passing a criminal background check, stable housing and financial stability.
“The process to become licensed typically takes around three months, depending upon how quickly the applicant is able to complete requirements and paperwork,” explains Middendorf.
Adults interested in becoming a foster parent can learn more by visiting the National Youth Advocate Program’s website at www.nyap.org, or the Indiana Department of Child Services at www.in.gov/dcs/fostercare.htm.
If you cannot foster, Middendorf asks that citizens help by at least spreading the word about the need for more foster families.
“There really is not set number of homes that would satisfy the need, as it is ever changing, but I can say that the need is only growing. Each day, we receive several requests from the Department of Child Services, seeking homes for different children across the state.”