Approximately 13,000 – 15,000 Pennsylvanian children are currently in foster care and part of the child welfare system, according to the Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association.
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, that is a 9.6% increase from 2013.
“The biggest issue is the lack of foster homes in our county, that’s why we’re doing this promotional thing,” Beth Booker, supervisor at Greene County’s foster care facility, said.
The agency has been working with Direct Results, a promotional business, since July to present the desperate need for more foster families in the area, Booker said. In addition to billboards, the agency has been putting up yard signs and talking to schools and churches to express their need.
“We have about four or five certified foster homes in Greene county; it’s very little and we need more,” Booker said.
When there is a lack of foster homes in a community, children in custody and in need of a home must be sent to affiliate agencies with more resources, Booker said.
“When we take these kids into custody and we have to work with different foster care affiliates, our Greene County money is going out to other counties where the affiliates are and our kids are having to change schools,” Booker said.
According to Booker, being removed from their homes and families as well as having to move from their friends and teachers because of a lack of homes here only exacerbates their trauma.
Margaret Keruskin, Greene County foster care caseworker, said this phenomenon should spur people to become licensed foster parents.
“We want to keep them as close to home as possible, we want them to be in the community where they live so we need people to step up to the plate, people who do want children,” Keruskin said.
Booker and Keruskin both affirmed that the search for homes is an ongoing process of recruitment; however, their short-term goal is to gain 25 more homes and work from there.
Keruskin said certification may seem as if there is a lot involved, but it’s a relatively smooth process taking about three to four weeks.
“People are usually worried about what’s involved, but most of the things people need they already have,” Keruskin said. “The clearances are the biggest things because they take a while to get back, or doctor appointments.”
The agency will customize to the needs of the family. Keruskin explained that foster parents are able to let them know what behaviors they will and won’t be able to handle, certain age groups they prefer etc. and from that information they determine how many children families can receive based on the size of the homes and available beds.
“We encourage them to let us know those things, we don’t just want to throw a kid into a home because there’s a bed there, we want to have a good pool of people to match these kids with so the placements are more successful,” Keruskin said.
Booker said trauma is another factor that often deters adults from being certified foster parents, but that the agency provides information and training to equip parents during the transition.
“We just need loving homes, it’s a more simple process than it looks like on paper,” Booker said. “If parents would like to foster they can call 724-852-5217 and ask for Beth or Margaret. We’re very passionate, we want to get the word out, we’re trying to recruit as many parents as we can in Greene County.”