By Michelle Lunka
November is National Adoption Month and it is a time to honor and celebrate our adoptive families both in Arizona and nationwide. The Children’s Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds the National Adoption Month initiative each November through a partnership with AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway. This year’s slogan is “We never outgrow the need for family.” This is especially true in Arizona where there is a staggering need for both foster and adoptive families.
Our Department of Child Safety has increased the number of children in foster care over 8 percent in the last year; we are approaching 18,000 children in out of home care statewide. Between January and March this year, 700 kids went straight into a shelter or group home after being removed from dangerous situations because we have a shortage of foster homes. Imagine, these children were just removed from everyone they know and now have no parents to tuck them in, no family dinner table, no toys or clothes with them, just a rotation of well-meaning volunteers and staff members coming and going. While the community needs these emergency shelters and group homes, children need families to care for them until they can safely return home.
Perhaps you have the time and resources to join the forces and care for a child directly as a foster parent. Our foster and adoptive parents are the people making a difference one hug, one tear, and one child at a time. These are our unsung heroes! More than 4,600 families in Arizona have stepped up to care for our children as foster parents; however there are over 2.3 million families in the state. Maybe you or someone you know will qualify to be a foster or adoptive parent? We want to hear from you!
Arizona has many agencies that provide foster and adoptive services. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent you can select a foster home licensing agency to assist you with completing everything required, including training, a family home study and a state home inspection. Agency representatives can answer your questions regarding the all of requirements for foster care licensure or adoption certification.
Applicants must be able to meet the following criteria:
• Be at least 21 years old.
• Qualify for a level 1 fingerprint clearance card (all adults in home).
• Verify your ability to support your family with your current income.
• Attend 30 hours of training and complete a home study.
• Pass a home safety inspection.
You can own or rent your home and you can be married, single, widowed or co-habitating. Children placed in foster care have their medical and dental expenses covered. There is also coverage for daycare for working foster parents. There is a need for diverse families to serve these children.
There are orientations available to learn more details about the requirements for foster care licensing and adoption certification. In Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties, weekly orientations are offered in English and Spanish. Other areas of the state also offer group and individual orientations. During the orientation you will learn about the different types of foster care. We desperately need homes for children of all ages. Due to the shortage of available homes many times siblings are separated at the time of placement; keeping siblings together is a critical need. We also need homes for children with medical, behavioral and developmental disabilities.
Tonight, in shelters around Arizona, someone will rock a crying child to sleep assuring them that tonight they are safe and, yes, it’s okay to miss your mom. In group homes this weekend, staff will entertain half a dozen teen boys amid the hormones and dreams of independence. Then, in more than 4,600 foster homes around Arizona, moms and dads will push for just a few more homework pages to be completed, calm a crying child, and hug a child who has just waved goodbye to their brother or sister… again.
Could you be a part of the solution to Arizona’s foster care crisis? “We never outgrow the need for family,” and if you are ready to accept the challenge and make a difference in a child’s life, please get involved today!
Michelle Lunka is the recruitment coordinator with HRT, Inc. For more information about becoming a foster parent, visit www.hrtaz.com.