Foster care program fills need for safe homes
summit daily news
When Dillon parents of two Tom and Kelly Hogeman learned they couldn’t have any more children, they began exploring domestic and international adoptions in order to expand their family.
But the astronomical costs ” sometimes up to $20,000 ” deterred them from the process.
“Being a young family in Summit County, that just doesn’t work, so we just started looking at other options because we do want to add to our family,” said Kelly, 36.
They wound up joining the county’s foster care program as a foster-adopt family about seven months ago. Since then, they’ve waded through the time-consuming certification routine, which includes five home-steady visits by Social Services, fingerprinting, a 12-hour training course, background checks and CPR/first aid training.
Now, the Hogemans are anticipating the day when they get the phone call that a local child needs a short- or long-term home.
“I’m excited. My husband and I just feel that … we have a lot of love to give,” Kelly said.
The Hogemans are one of five foster families in the county who have opened their doors to kids who have no other place to go.
May is National Foster Care month, and a time to recognize the local families who help kids maintain a sense of continuity as they work through turmoil in their lives, said Jann Engleman, who served as the county’s foster care coordinator for 13 years before a recent move to the early childhood program.
“Without those foster homes, it would be devastating for these kids ” they’d have to go out of the county, switch schools and be with kids they don’t know,” Engleman said.
Short vs. long-term
Most of the children who move through the foster care program, which falls under the umbrella of the Department of Human Services within Summit County Government, are short term.
The temporary needs can stem from a variety of situations, such as an arrest of a parent, an arrest or detainment of a child and a parent isn’t available to pick them right away, or the kids could be runaways, Engleman said.
The need for long-term care, which almost always results from abuse or neglect in the home, is much less prevalent. Engleman could recall only “one or two” children who required a home for six months or longer during her 13 years on the job.
Short-term care is primarily handled by three local families who share the responsibility of carrying an emergency crisis pager that sounds when the need for a foster home arises, typically in the late night hours.
Summit County couple Mary and Gary (who did not want to reveal their last name to protect the safety of the foster children staying with them) have had a child stay with them for as little as four hours, and as long as three months, during the four years they’ve carried the crisis pager.
The couple and their two young daughters have adjusted to life with new children and teenagers filtering through the home, and are known as the family who always has extra kids in tow, Mary said.
The refrigerator in the family’s bright kitchen is covered with photos of children, and their backyard beckons kids with a trampoline, a large play structure and other toys.
Mary has set aside a spare bedroom in the home for foster care and explains the rules of the house to each new child who walks through the door. She regularly buys supplies like hairbrushes at the dollar store and solicits local dentists for extra toothbrushes to hand out to the kids who often come into her home with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
The toughest part of being a foster home is the middle-of-the-night pages, she said, which usually mean she’ll be awake for hours.
“Because you have a new child in the house, you’re listening for every little noise, and depending on the age of the child, they may be that disrupted that they don’t sleep either, so you’re sitting up cuddling with a child all night,” Mary said.
Letting go of a child at their end of his or her stay can be difficult, particularly if the child isn’t moving into a positive environment, she said.
But, the rewards of foster care make the challenges worthwhile. Recently Mary and Gary received a letter from one of their first ever foster children, a teenage girl who had been flunking out of school. The girl had since moved out of the county and graduated high school with honors.
“She contacted us and she goes, ‘You know, I hated being with you, I fought you the whole time, but you were the first person to kick me in the rear,'” Mary said.
Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at email@example.com.
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