MORRSION – Only two foster parents are registered in Lee and Whiteside counties, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services says that’s nowhere near enough.
William Hart, recruitment and resource specialist for the DCFS northern region, said the area is in desperate need of foster parents. He made his case for kids during a Whiteside County Board meeting Tuesday.
As of Jan. 31, DCFS reports that there were 17 children from Whiteside County in foster care and 8 from Lee County. In total, the state is responsible for more than 16,000 children.
He said the more foster parents there are in the area, the better it will be for children, allowing them to stay close to their family in hopes of being reunited with them, staying in same school, and keeping close to their friends.
Registering to be a foster parent isn’t that difficult.
Prospective parents must be 21 and able to provide a stable household. The process starts with an application packet, three non-relative character references, up-to-date medical exams, and fingerprinting and background checks for everyone 13 or older in the home.
The agency then makes three or four visits to inspect the home environment and determine its suitability for children. Prospective foster parents also are required to have 37 1/2 hours of training, provided at no cost.
The entire process can take up to 6 months to complete, and licenses are valid for 4 years.
Qualities that make a suitable foster parent are patience, nurturing, understanding of emotional trauma, and a willingness to work with a child’s family, Hart said.
DCFS is also looking for emergency foster parents who house children for a short period of time until more permanent arrangements can be made. They need to be available 24/7.
In a single-parent household, the parent must stay or work from home. In a two-parent household, one parent must be home at all times.
Visit illinois.gov/dcfs or contact Hart at 815-787-5362 or William.R.Hart@illinois.gov. for more information on becoming a foster parent.