Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County, an affiliate Program of CHJC (Children’s Home of Jefferson County) is sending out an urgent call for new Foster Parents. The request comes in response to a growing number of deserving children throughout St. Lawrence County in need of loving and nurturing Foster Care Homes.
“To me, Fostering is turning loss into opportunity. One day you’re strangers and the next you’re family. You’re a foundation of hope, yet so are the children. They hope you’re different. You strive every day to be that difference,” shared Andrew Tefft, Fostering Futures Foster Parent.
Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County has been in existence since 2012 and is appreciative of the strong partnership and support it receives from St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services. “We are fortunate to share effective communication regarding our Foster Children and Families with St. Lawrence County DSS. We appreciate their constant and unwavering support,” said Victoria Peck, CHJC Director of Children’s Services. She explained St. Lawrence County has also been a key partner for the Program’s robust Life Skills curriculum, providing critical skills development, necessary to each Foster Child’s future success.
Fostering Futures Therapeutic Foster Care Program works in partnership with the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services, and provides comprehensive and ongoing support and training for all of its Foster Families. The Program provides temporary care for children unable to live with their birth families or guardians. It allows children who may have been abused or neglected, and/or have behavioral challenges and special needs, the opportunity to live in a family setting, attend public school and be an active member of the community.
“The growing need for Foster Families can be directly linked to the rise in substance abuse cases throughout the County,” said Mrs. Peck. Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County serves an average of 110 children per year. Many of those children are members of sibling groups. Since 2012, nearly 800 St. Lawrence County children have been placed in nearly 200 Fostering Futures Foster Care Homes, opened and certified in St. Lawrence County by CHJC.
But more are critically needed, especially Foster Homes willing to accept older children and teens, as well as sibling groups. “These are the kiddos in your own community. They go to school and ride the bus with your kids. While they’re in Foster Care, it’s so important to keep them near their homes, schools and familiar surroundings. That’s why new Foster Parents are always needed,” she added.
“It’s easy to say that it’s not my family, not my child, not my problem. But as a community, we need to take responsibility for its people. We need to respond to, and fight for, our youth. As a part of Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County, I’m proud to be a respondent. I’m proud to be someone involved with an agency that cares and fights for my community’s youth,” said Kaitlyn Redmond, Visit Supervisor.
Several different options are available for caring individuals to become part of the solution. One of the newest options is the Fostering Futures Kinship Program. Mrs. Peck explained “It’s the wave of the future. Children are placed with extended family members, close friends, teachers, and other people significant and familiar in their lives. The individual need not be a blood relative.” Traditional Foster Parents are also needed.
Both options are given intensive support including Fostering Futures on-call Staff available seven day a week, 24 hour per day, to assist with any issues arising with the Foster Care placement. In 2019 alone, Fostering Futures on-call Staff responded to an average of 300 calls per month. Fostering Futures Staff also make frequent and regular home visits, providing coaching, as well as educational and emotional support for their Foster Parents. “We’re there whenever a Foster Parent needs our help. We go to them. We don’t ask them to come to us,” said Mrs. Peck.
At least four times a year, Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County offers Foster Parent training and certification classes in St. Lawrence County. This past year, simultaneous sessions were held in Canton, Massena and Potsdam, leading to the successful graduation of 21 new Foster Families. The variety of locations make it easier for families to attend. For added convenience, classes are held on both weekdays and Saturdays.
Mrs. Peck explained Fostering Futures Foster Parents become part of a close-knit team working together to reunite families, and provide permanency for the children in their care. Other key team members include Fostering Futures Case Planners, Homefinders, Visit Supervisors, and Recruitment and Training Specialists. “It’s essential to be a continuous person in a youth’s life when people are constantly coming and going in and out of their lives,” added Aimee Barney, Case Planner.
Fostering Futures also provides a support network for its Foster Parents including monthly group meetings, continuing education opportunities, and recreational activities for both Foster Parents and Children. CHJC’s array of additional services include clinical treatment and counseling services, as needed. Care Coordinators are also available to assist with medical needs including medication management, referrals and scheduling appointments for needed services, transportation and housing issues, and helping fill any other unmet needs of the Foster Family and Foster Children.
Since its inception in 2012, Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County (SLC) has been a St. Lawrence County Human Services Building tenant. The centralized location provides easy access for Foster Parents and Birth Families alike. A key component of the Program is its Visitation Center, also located in SLC’s Human Services Building. During visits, Birth Parents and their children meet regularly to heal and strengthen family bonds. Fostering Futures Visitation Supervisors take an active part in the visit, “coaching” Birth Parents on parenting and essential life skills.
Visitation services are available seven days a week and may also be available off-site at various community locations, as well as within the home environment. Transportation services are provided. In 2019 alone, Fostering Futures logged more than 7,000 visitation hours. Mrs. Peck noted “Coached Visitation has a direct impact on contributing towards family permanency and reunification.”
Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County’s efforts are paying off. Since 2012, more than 300 children have been reunited with either their Birth Parents or other relatives, and nearly 130 others have been adopted. However, Fostering Futures support does not end with reunification or adoption. Aftercare services continue long after the child is reunified with their Birth Parent(s). CHJC’s Family Permanency of the North Country Program works with post-adoptive families offering a wide array of supports and services, thereby ensuring the adoption’s success and longevity.
For more information about Fostering Futures of St. Lawrence County, or on opening your home and heart to these deserving children, please contact Malissa Hale, Fostering Futures Program Manager, at (315) 229-3503. Or e-mail Malissa at [email protected]. Additional information can also be found at www.chjc.org.