DHR needs volunteer parents

Published 4:42 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

“You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” That’s the slogan the Alabama Department of Human Resources has adopted. And finding good, nurturing foster/adoptive parents is in the forefront of Delane Whittle and Marcia Allen’s minds.

Whittle, a supervisor in charge of QA and Resource Development and Allen, a licensing worker, are in charge of recruitment and approval of prospective foster and adoptive parents for the Butler County DHR. DHRs across the state are embarking on a campaign in February to recruit more foster/adoptive families.

There is an urgent need for more foster and adoptive homes in the county, Whittle said.

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“We have 13 foster homes currently, and 15 foster children. Because we don’t have enough homes available, particularly for some of those with special needs, several of our children have had to be placed out of the area,” Whittle said.

In fiscal year 2009, Alabama DHR finalized more than 600 adoptions of children in the foster care system. However, most of those adoptions were by foster parents with whom the children were already living.

“It means we just don’t have enough foster homes in Butler County and the state as a whole,” Whittle said.

Children enter the foster care system for a variety of reasons.

“It may be a baby who has special physical needs the parents cannot provide for, a child whose parents are without employment, who have drug issues, or it could be a child suffering abuse in the home and a judge orders that child to be removed from the home. There are many reasons why a child comes into the system,” Allen said.

At the same time, a variety of people willing to serve as foster parents are needed, she added.

“We have parents from their early to mid-20s right on up to 60s, married couples and single adults, male and female. Our goal is to match the parents with the children and their age and particular needs,” Allen said.

Another important goal: “To get the children back into their homes.”

“Yes, sometimes it proves permanent, but ideally foster care is a temporary situation,” Allen said.

Some foster children will discover their “forever home” while in the system, with

over half the foster parents in Butler County also being adoptive parents.

Key requirements for a prospective foster/adoptive parents are: financial stability, clearing a criminal background check, passing a physical and providing a safe, comfortable home environment for the child.

They are also required to attend a 10-week Group Preparation Selection (GPS) class to prepare them for all facets of fostering and adoption.

“We have a wonderful lady, Jennifer Butts, who teaches this for us at the Crenshaw County DHR offices. She is a social worker, foster parent and an adoptive parent, so she knows all the ins and outs of what these parents need to know,” said Allen.

A new class is starting on February 16. The classes typically run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and meet once a week. The final meeting involves a forum with foster parents, attorneys, social workers and others to answer questions and offer different perspectives for fostering and adoption.

The entire process to be licensed as a foster/adoptive parent takes about three months. It’s time and effort well spent, Whittle and Allen say.

“We have children who need safe, stable and nurturing environments to live in until they can safely reunite with their families or establish other lifelong family relationships,” Whittle said.

“Without those strong, caring relationships with adults, foster youth are much more likely to end up battling joblessness, homelessness, poverty, jail and many more adversities after leaving the system. We are asking people to step up and help.”

Anyone who is interested in looking into being a foster/adoptive parent or providing other assistance should come by the DHR offices at 109 Caldwell St. in Greenville, or contact Delane Whittle 334-382-4421 to found out more. Additional info is also available at www.dhr.alabama.gov.