County in need of foster families

April Arrowood, Foster Care Specialist with the Wabash County Department of Children Services, places pinwheels in the grass by the Wabash Middle School. She is helped by her daughters (from left) Paige and Brooklyn. Photo by Joseph Slacian

By Joseph Slacian

Wabash County is in need of foster parents, according to officials from the local office of the Department of Child Services.

To help bring attention to the need, officials are having several special events in April to help mark Child Abuse Prevention Awareness. Saturday’s Shamrock Shuffle was the kickoff event, with three foster care agencies benefiting from the proceeds of a run and walk in the northern part of the city.

Pinwheels and signs were  also placed along the run course. The pinwheel is a symbol of a happy, carefree childhood. Pinwheel gardens represent a commitment to making the community a safe and nurturing place for all kids and families.

Margery Justice, director of the DSC office, and April Arrowood, DCS Foster Care Specialist, discussed the need for foster parents locally in an interview with The Paper of Wabash County.

From January 2014 to January 2015, there were 26,505 youngsters placed in foster care in the State of Indiana. During that time, 176 Wabash County children were in foster care, Arrowood said.

Because of the lack of foster parents locally, some of the Wabash County children have to be placed with foster families in other counties. In January, 71 Wabash County children were in foster care, and just 32 were located with local families.

“We’ve got approximately 40 of our kids placed outside of Wabash County,” Arrowood said. “That’s about 40 percent.”

To try to help the situation, DCS will host three informational meetings on April 11 in which people can stop by the office and learn what it takes to be a foster family. Local foster families and DCS officials will be on hand to answer any questions. The meetings are expected to last 30 minutes and will take place at 10 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Anyone interested may attend the event, which also will include a short Power Point presentation and a discussion of the requirements to be a foster parent.

“But I feel like they get more information from current foster parents,” Arrowood said, “and those foster parents can talk about how their lives have changed and what fostering is all about. I think they’re more interested in how are your children affected by this, and how has your day-to-day life changed because of this. I think people are more interested in knowing that information than what I tell them about the process and rules and regulations.”

Justice said foster families also are great mentors for new foster families.

“So they can call them on certain things, instead of calling us.”

Justice believes the public is slowly learning about the need for local foster families. 

“The word is kind of getting out,” she said. “So we need to be recruiting … in our own county so the kids don’t have to go to another school, they’re out in another community, they’re further away from their parents.”

There are now about 35 foster families in Wabash County, Arrowood said. In addition to DCS, White’s Residential and Family Services and Benchmark Family Services also offer foster care services. Benchmark is in the Muncie and Anderson area, and many of the local children are placed there because of the association with the organization.

“One thing we see is when our kids are placed in Muncie or Anderson, it makes it harder for visitation with the parents,” Arrowood said. “The parents traveling, or the children are traveling, and how late are they staying out after school because they have an hour for traveling here and an hour for traveling back, then they have an hour and a half visit. It just makes it more difficult when our kids are placed out of county.”

Justice noted that it also is hard on the foster parents, trying to figure out a child’s schedule, with counseling, school activities and so forth.

She also pointed out that other counties are experiencing the same problems Wabash is, so some of those homes may have children from outside of Wabash County living with them.

“I think it’s important because it’s focusing on how to prevent abuse,” Justice said.

“Every child deserves a happy and healthy childhood,” Arrowood added. “By volunteering at the schools or at daycare, things like that give children good, happy memories no matter what kind of situation they may come into.”

Posted on 2015 Apr 07