The “home finders” came to the Sayville Congregational Church last week.
For foster kids, that is.
Senior caseworker Bryon Hunt and caseworker Kenneth Murphy, from Suffolk County Department of Social Services, Family and Children Services, Resource Development, provided a comprehensive two-hour overview of the county’s foster care and adoption process, including why children wind up in foster care, requirements for those looking to become foster parents, their training period and also support services.
The Fostering & Adopting Suffolk’s Kids, Tweens and Teens program, open to the public, was hosted by the Congregational Church’s Justice Action Committee.
There are almost 500 children currently in foster care in towns and hamlets like Riverhead, Sayville and Amityville, Hunt said.
Both Hunt’s and Murphy’s main mission is getting youths in good, loving homes, whether it’s foster care or adoption, thus the “home finders” term.
“I work in Resource Development to find folks interested [in fostering a child] or getting the word out,” Murphy emphasized. “We ask if you could be a possible parent and bond with them. You’re in the first position to become a parent resource.”
A stipend for room and board for foster care and financial help for adoption is provided, Murphy said.
As far as support, caseworkers are a foster parent’s point of contact and can arrange for childcare and a child’s medical needs.
“As a foster parent, you’re not in this alone,” added Hunt.
There are times foster parents do return their charges to a youth’s biological parents, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the relationship.
Some biological parents go through a rough patch, and their child needs a supportive place while a solution is worked through.
Some former foster kids still stay in touch with their foster parents, Hunt said.
Requirements for certification as a foster or adoptive parent include attending and participating in 10 meetings of the Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting/Group Preparation and Selection training, and clearing with the New York State Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
A child winds up in protective custody for foster care because of educational neglect, abuse, or sex trafficking issues reported to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services; OFC maintains a Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
Information is gathered, then Child Protective Services staff receive a report. If there are enough red flags, they will personally knock on the door of that child’s home. Concerns can be unfounded, Hunt said, 75 to 80 percent of the time that occurs.
But in other cases, it’s the Family Court system that provides the authority to remove a child, Hunt explained.
“There needs to be credible evidence the child is in danger and needs to be removed. [But] the goal is for the parent to [hopefully] get rehabilitative services and then return the child,” Hunt said.
Family members are researched first for the ability to take the child. If that’s not an option, foster parents are sought.
“Foster care is temporary,” Hunt said. There are court-ordered visitations, where the parent sees the child once a week and is picked up from the foster home. Some foster families do adopt children. If the natural parent isn’t doing what they should do, we as an agency have to start thinking of permanent adoptions.”
Some people who call Hunt express the desire to adopt an infant. In circumstances where infants are in the care of protective services, they’re not available for adoption until they become a toddler because of a law, he said.
Hunt was asked what percentage of fostering ends with adoption.
“Last year there were 40 children adopted,” he said. “The year before it was almost 90 children. It’s between 70 to 90 children adopted in previous years.”