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Children need foster care, county needs families

By By ANNA M. LEE Managing Editor
With 38 Escambia County kids in need of foster care and only 15 licensed foster families, 23 children in need of care are currently living outside of the county.
Though there are five homes currently pending approval to become foster families -- bringing the total to 20 in the next few months -- there will still be a need.
James says the greatest need is for families willing to foster sibling groups or children over the age of 12.
People who wish to serve as foster parents must first complete a 10-week training program called Group Preparation and Selection (GPS). Potential parents attend the program one night per week. Then DHR conducts a criminal background check and a child abuse and neglect background check before doing a study of the home to decide if the parents have the skills necessary to be foster parents.
Once a child is in foster care, DHR's ultimate goal is to work with the child's family and ultimately have the child go back home, if at all possible. If that's not an option, James said, they look for a close relative who can permanently care for the child. Once those options are exhausted, the child will be made available for adoption and often foster families become adoptive families.
Full time foster care and adoption are not the only ways children in need of care in this county.
With the same 10-week training and background checks, people can be approved as "visiting resources," offering some stable family contact to children on weekends on holidays. These visiting resource families also help full time foster families by caring for children on a weekend.
The next GPS session begins on Aug. 19 and sessions are held twice a year. For more information on becoming a foster parent, call Tracie James at 809-2000.