‘They just want someone to love them’: Foster care need grows ahead of holiday season

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – There is a big push to get our children experiencing foster care into a happy and safe home in Ohio, especially as we head into the holiday season.

Unfortunately, the pandemic left more kids without homes, and fewer families able to help.

Since the start of the pandemic in March of 2019, the number of people inquiring about becoming foster parents has gone down 50 percent. However, Ohio has changed its laws to get more kids in good homes.

There are 2,559 children currently in Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services custody. Some of them are looking for a temporary home while others are looking for a permanent family. But the coronavirus pandemic has really left its mark, especially on the kids.

“Anytime a child is moved or removed from a home, that is trauma,” said Zelma Brown, a Foster Parent Recruiter for SAFY. “Imagine what we’ve been through in this pandemic, and then a child on top of that, that has been removed from their home.”

Zelma Brown is one of the foster care recruiters at the Cleveland branch of SAFY, which is a therapeutic foster care agency. Brown says there is a big need for people to foster teenagers and mixed sibling groups.

Someone just like Gwendolyn Compton, who has been a foster parent since 1995. Compton has fostered 25 teenage girls during her time as a foster parent. Some she fostered for just two weeks, others for as long as three years. She even ended up adopting one of the girls.

“They just want someone to love them,” said Compton. “People say kids don’t like the structure, but they do want the structure.”

The state of Ohio has now made it easier for interested parents because of the pressures of the pandemic. Two bills have passed since the beginning of the pandemic. One allows for fewer training hour requirements for interested parents. Another allows families to keep children experiencing foster care longer.

But what about the safety of the foster parent? Compton says there are now mandatory coronavirus tests for those coming and going into her home.

“Now it’s a lot better,” Compton said. “A lot of teenagers have their shots, and a lot of teenagers know to wear their masks.”

With the thousands of children currently in the program, the need for foster parents is great. But who makes a great foster parent? According to SAFY, you do.

“We are looking for the parents who are single, we are looking for parents who are married we are looking for parents staying at home and can take care of children who may have medical needs,” Brown said.

“You got to be committed,” Compton added. “You got to have patience and with the tools the agency gives you, you’ll be a good foster parent.”

To become a foster parent, you have to take 36 hours of training, pass a background check and there is an intensive home study where they look at your life and how you were raised to see if you are able to handle the issues these children may bring into your home.

All of the training can now be done virtually and SAFY says they will help you with it.

Click here for more information.

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