Hudson Valley Parent

HVP January 2017

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Page 24 of 35 n Hudson Valley Parent 25 department. Programs provide stipends (which are set according to the child's age to reimburse foster parents for the costs associated with day-to-day care), training and sup- port to help foster parents adequate- ly provide for the children. There is a great need for loving adults of any race, creed or gender who can provide temporary, safe, and stable homes to children whose biological parents are unfit or unable to do so. Almost by definition, children in the foster care system have under- gone trauma. There is a reason - be it physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect - that they were taken out of the home. But that doesn't spare them the trauma of leaving the home itself, regardless of how abusive their home life was. Part of the foster parent role is to function as part of a "team" with the birth parents, the child, the case- worker, and the law guardian (attor- ney for the child). Obermeyer says she was required to take her foster child to visit her birth mother and siblings every week until adoption. "These visits were often traumatic, "she says. "But even after we ad- opted, we negotiated an agreement for her birth mother to have annual visits. Even though our daughter was now legally ours, we felt it was bet- ter for her to be able to see that she was not given up because she wasn't loved, but because her birth mother wasn't capable of taking care of her." "It breaks your heart, but you can't expect the kids to be grateful that you've taken them in," says Lauranne Billus, a foster parent from Staatsburg. "In their eyes you haven't rescued've taken them away from the only life they have ever known, from their friends and family. Most of the time the kids want to believe that things will be great if they just get to go back home." "It's a bad situation that never goes away," Obermeyer adds. "It is a life issue for the child when your primary caregiver leaves you at an early age. It's a lifelong adjustment." What it takes Foster parents go through a10- week classroom training, annual recertification, home visits, and background checks. For those who are unable to attend the training, home-study options are available. The Department of Family and Children Services in Poughkeepsie tries hard to match up foster parents and children that meet each other's needs. In one recent foster care training program there was a couple who had difficulty conceiving and wanted a baby, a number of couples who had children and wanted to ex- pand their families, and three single women. Foster care is ideal for those who just enjoy helping kids through a difficult time and are happy with its temporary nature. "We waited two years for a healthy child who was already freed for adoption," says Obermeyer. "Fi- nally we relented and said we would take one at any stage. Shortly there- after we got a call and, with just two hours' notice, she was brought to us directly from the courtroom with nothing but the clothes on her back." "I had thought about becoming a foster parent for years," says Billus. "I had a house and room and I knew the need was great, that there is an epidemic of heroin use in our area. But I was afraid to commit because of a lack of a support network. It would be just me. Then I turned fifty and realized I was giving all my en- ergy and time to work. I could foster a child." Billus started the process in Au- gust and completed it by Thanksgiv- ing. She welcomed a pair of siblings into her home the following May. The pair had been in and out of the system for over 10 years. They had relocated states, been returned and removed again, and suffered a bad foster care placement. "You are just another person they have to deal with before they can go home and then everything will be good," Billus says. "The smart thing is to recognize that you need help and reach out to the people who can provide assistance." "You can't really be prepared no matter how much training. Every child is unique. Every situation is different," Obermeyer says. "Being a parent is always a thankless job. And no child, whether biologically yours or not, comes with a guarantee. I feel she was meant to be our child." Linda Freeman is a freelance writer in Marlboro. For more information: NYS Office of Children and Family Services 1-800-345-KIDS Dept. of Community & Family Services (DCFS) Foster Care Unit Ellen Gander, Foster Parent Liaison 486-3069 Departments/SocialServices/ SSfostercare.htm Orange County Dept. of Social Services 23 Hatfield Lane Goshen 291-2800 Email for information Ulster County Department of Social Services 334-5400 services/children-and-family- services New York foster and adoption guidelines Click the "Adoption and Foster Care" tab at

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