The need for foster care in Summit County
SUMMIT COUNTY – Last year, 15 kids entered the foster care program in Summit County, according to Jann Engleman, who served for 13 years as the county’s foster care coordinator. That number, which is among the lowest per county in the state, can be attributed to successful prevention programs in the area, she said. Social services holds classes and counseling opportunities from early childhood through the teenage years. “I think that continuum really does impact the number of kids we have in foster care in a positive way,” Engleman said.Even though there are a little more than a dozen kids on average in foster care per year, and five local families willing to help care for them, a large gap exists in the program, Engleman said.”We’re desperately looking for people who would consider taking teenagers at least on a short-term basis,” she said.Three crisis foster families accept teens into their homes, but usually not for longer than a month or so. Teens with longer term needs usually ends up being sent to a group facility on the Front Range, Engleman said. Teens who have drug or alcohol problems are typically kept out of the foster program, and instead are placed in juvenile detention facilities or therapeutic programs on the Front Range.Foster families are permitted to attach parameters to the foster children they’ll take into their home. For instance, new foster parents Tim and Kelly Hogeman stipulated they would only consider providing a home for children under 8 years old because they have a 6-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son, and don’t want to have to worry about the influences an older person could have on their children.The goal is always to place kids in the least restrictive environment as possible, so foster care coordinators work diligently to certify a relative or close family friend in the county to care for a teen.Also, the number of foster families signed up in the county is relatively low right now, Engleman said. She recalls a time when there were 11 certified foster homes available, but tight state funding makes it difficult for the foster care program to spend much time on recruitment. Rather, they rely on word-of-mouth to gather new interest.”We have to allocate our resources as wisely as we can,” she said.The department is always interested in hearing from people who think they may be a good fit for foster care. Potential foster parents should have some knowledge of child development and have the ability to provide physical and emotional care and appropriate supervision, among other qualifications.
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