The Elmore County Department of Human Resources is trying to help parents learn all the aspects of the foster care system.
Potential foster parents are already signing up for the required foster parenting classes, which began Tuesday at the Elmore County DHR office located at 73932 Tallassee Hwy. in Wetumpka.
According to Cathy Tylicki with the DHR, anyone interested in becoming a foster parent in Elmore County is encouraged to sign up. The Elmore County DHR designated February as Foster Care Awareness Month.
“The classes are very beneficial,” said Tylicki, who has spent 10 years at the DHR. “They force you to reflect inwardly and help decide if this is something that you really want to do. We never know when we’ll need another home, so we try to recruit as many families as possible.”
The classes will run every Tuesday for the next three months, culminating in mid-November.
Representatives from DHR have gone around the county talking to residents and community leaders about the needs of children placed in the system. They’ve even asked Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis and the Wetumpka City Council for a proclamation.
Children who enter the foster care system are from all ages and social backgrounds. Tylicki said there was no average age of foster children in Elmore County.
Children are placed in foster care if they are found to be unsafe due to risk of domestic violence, drug use, physical or sexual abuse and outright neglect. In extreme cases, the rights of the biological parents are terminated.
There are 56 children currently in foster care in Elmore County and 20 homes are being used. Some of the children are placed outside the county. Siblings placed in foster care are kept together.
“We try everything we can to locate relatives for the children first,” Tylicki said. “If we’re unable to find relatives, the children stay with us. In that case, the children are with us for a short amount of time, up to a year. Our main goal is to reunite families; otherwise we change our plans for that child.”
During the classes, parents learn about the system itself and what types of children are placed in the system. Parents also learn behaviors, expectations and start a working partnership in the attempt to reunite families.
The classes are a step in the approval process to become a foster parent. Parents are also required to be certified in CPR, first aid and water safety. Families and children are assigned social workers who perform checks at least once a month.
According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources website, foster parents must be at least 19 years of age. All adults in the home must be willing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history. The home must have enough space for the child and his or her belongings.
Foster parents may provide care for up to six children at one time and receive payment each month for room and board.
Before Tuesday’s class, eight families were signed up, which is around 20-25 people according to Tylicki. Those interested in becoming foster parents can find out more information about the classes by contacting the Elmore County DHR or Tylicki at 334-514-3230.
Tylicki said the biggest concern for potential parents is dealing with separation after taking in a foster child.
“When you take in a foster child, they become one of your own,” Tylicki said. “That’s what we expect from these parents. The families get really attached after having the child in the home for a period of time. They know they’re able to help families and help a child heal from abuse and neglect.”