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Posted on August 17, 2018 at 10:59 AM by Jennifer Ambrose
Families are the foundation of our community. Strong families can provide the love, support and encouragement that children need to grow into healthy and productive adults. Unfortunately, there are times when families may start to fall apart due to drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, a financial crisis or a variety of other reasons. At those times, the foster care system steps in to provide a safe environment for the children until they can return home.
Lenawee County has a spectrum of foster care services and programs to support children and families during times of crisis. These programs help hundreds of children every year by providing services such as foster home licensing, foster care placements, daycare for younger children, mental health counselling, and life skills classes for teenagers who will soon graduate from foster care into adulthood. Through these programs, Lenawee County is investing in our children and our community’s future.
Why is Foster Care important?
The foster care system is all about making connections, whether it is connecting a child with the right foster care home or connecting parents with the services they need. When a parent or family member is in crisis, they are not always able to care for the children effectively. The foster care system allows the parents some time to step back and resolve their own issues and learn how to be better at what they do so they can be reunited with their children.
Lisa Millyard is currently an MI Team Specialist at the Department of Health and Human Services in Lenawee and Monroe counties. After working in child protective services for 15 years and foster care licensing for two years, she understands the importance of foster care for children and families. “Foster care is designed to provide a safe and loving home for children to go to while their families are healing,” explains Millyard.
“The biggest need the children have is just to know there is someone out there they can connect with. If they can find one person to connect with and really have a relationship with, that can help them build resiliency and move toward healing. It is our job to make that connection.”
What types of children need Foster Care?
Foster care supports children of all ages. Many people are interested in providing foster care for an infant or young child, which leaves a large number of teenagers waiting to be matched with a foster home. There are often misconceptions that foster care children are troubled or have behavior issues, but that is not necessarily the case. “They are just regular kids,” says Millyard. “The kids you see in the grocery store or in the neighborhood or in your child’s class. I think a lot of people would be extremely surprised at what these kids have to offer.”
Foster care placements may last for a few weeks, months or even years depending on the situation. In some cases, the foster care parents may maintain contact with the child’s birth parents, either directly or through the foster care agency. Adoption is also a possibility in cases where the child cannot be reunited with his or her birth parents.
How can I become a Foster Care parent?
There is always a need for foster parents, especially families who are interested in fostering teenagers or are willing to take more than one child in order to keep siblings together in the same foster home.
Sheryl Mohr and her husband Matt were parents to five biological children when they decided to open their home as foster parents. Their youngest child was 11 years old at the time. “I just knew in my heart that it was something I wanted to do,” says Sheryl.
It took a little bit of convincing to get her husband on board, but once the couple had their first experience in foster care, they knew that they had found their true calling. Earlier this year, the Mohr’s adopted three siblings ranging in age from 8 to 12 years old. They now have a total of 15 children. They have become advocates for foster care, encouraging others in the community to volunteer their time.
“I wish other people knew that being a foster parent means simply being a parent,” says Sheryl. “Just giving of your heart, loving a child, and looking at them for who they are and where they are at.”
Anyone who is considering becoming a foster parent can take the first step and request more information by calling the Lenawee County Department of Health and Human Services at 1-517-264-6300 or going online to learn more about the foster care program.
“Being a foster parent is an awesome way to give back to the community,” says Millyard. “People think that they need to be married and they can’t foster if they are single, or if they have a full-time job, but that is not the case.” There is a wide network of support and resources for anyone who is interested in becoming a foster parent.