Elmore County averaged 58 children in foster care per month during fiscal year 2019, according to data provided by Elmore County Department of Human Resources director Michelle Wood.There are 20 foster homes available in the county, virtually all of which are full. 

DHR resource supervisor Cathy Tylicki said it would be wonderful to see the number of foster homes open to local children double in the near future.

“We never know when we’ll need another home,” Tylicki said.

Tylicki said prospective foster parents are required to go through a 12-week training course and be certified in CPR, first aid and water safety. 

Potential foster parents who are married must have been wed for at least one year, and single parents are welcome to become foster parents as well, Tylicki said.

In early 2019, Elmore County DHR designated February as Foster Care Awareness Month in the county.

DHR representatives shared information about foster care with Elmore County residents to better educate them on what being a foster parent entails and inform them how to become foster parents.

The efforts resulted in seven new families taking the training course this fall.

“This class is actual training for people who want to foster,” Tylicki said. 

Tylicki said most families will foster for just a few years. 

“So many foster families can only do it for a few years,” she said. “People move, change jobs; circumstances change. A lot of our foster families adopt, and families can only handle so many kids.”

Statewide in fiscal year 2019, there were 731 foster care adoptions, which is an all-time record, according to a recent release from Gov. Kay Ivey. That is up from the previous year’s record of 727 adoptions. 

For one foster family in the county, the foster experience ended in adopting two young boys.

Colleen Blecher, her husband Korey Blecher and their two children stared fostering in April 2017 after briefly providing respite care for other foster families.

“Adoption is something I always wanted to do,” Collen Blecher said. “My sister was adopted. As we started talking about foster care, God put things in front of us. Everything kept stumbling in that direction (to foster). We signed up to take the classes and we just never looked back.”

Blecher said the primary goal for children in foster care is reunification with their parents.

In fiscal year 2019, 36 children in county foster care were returned home to parents or relatives.

The Blecher family provided foster care for four sets of children — 10 in all.

In Elmore County, the number of foster adoptions increased from eight in fiscal year 2018 to 12 in fiscal year 2019.

In most all cases, DHR keeps siblings together.

The first foster care experience for the Blecher family included three older girls.

“You have to look at it as, ‘Can I make a difference in a child’s life?’” she said. “What’s more important? Helping them and giving and showing love or protecting your own heart?

“It was not an easy thing but is was so worth it. They brought joy to our lives. We made those five weeks the best we can. Even with our boys, they came to us in June.”

Tylicki encouraged people to look into providing respite care for foster families, donate items like diapers, wipes, new toys and clothing to DHR or connect with a foster family to help with tasks such as cutting the grass.

Those interested in becoming foster parents, providing respite care or donating items can find out more information by contacting the Elmore County DHR or Tylicki at 334-514-3230.