Entering the tight security building, police cars out front, many wouldn’t have a clue that behind the walls and in the offices of this very large building are files and files of cases of neglected and abused children in Summit County, hundreds awaiting homes.
As of today there are approximately 600 kids in Summit County Children’s Services (SCCS) foster care. Another 250 are in their permanent custody, nearly 500 are living in Kinship Homes (with relatives), and another 150 are living in residential facilities due to mental health issues.
“Ohio’s larger metro areas like Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati have even double or triple those numbers,” said Sandy DeLuca, Home Finding Recruiter for SCCS.
Most children come to SCCS due to abuse, neglect or dependency issues.
“Dependency is one of the primary reasons children come in,” DeLuca said “It’s where a child is left alone and there is no adult caring for them.”
Other reasons so many children are being put up for adoption or foster care include the economy, parent’s losing their jobs, stresses being placed on the family, and drug and alcohol issues.
“Maybe the parent was abused as a child,” DeLuca said, “but if that cycle hasn’t been broken, that parent is abusing their child.”
She says drugs, the economy and poverty are very prevalent among these cases.
“Wherever there are stresses placed on the family where the parents just lose it, they can’t cope or deal with things and unfortunately may take it out on the child,” DeLuca said.
The SCCS has temporary custody over all children in the foster care system.
“While in foster care the kids have been removed from their parent’s home and placed in a foster home for a short period of time,” DeLuca explained. “Then we, as an agency, work with the birth family to get the counseling, therapy, or whatever kind of services that they need for their child to return back home. Our goal is to always have the child reunify and go back home.”
Ongoing services are provided for children even while still living with the birth parents.
Faith Based Recruitment
Faith Based Recruitment is an outreach effort of the SCCS to area churches to help them identify families within their congregations and communities that would like to become foster and adoptive families. They have developed a tool kit based on what several area pastors thought would be good for churches.
“There’s a lot of stuff in the tool kit. In essence it’s a mini marketing campaign,” DeLuca said.
It is designed for the Pastor, a lay person or member of the congregation to present to the church in whatever fashion they choose.
“The kit is based on the Old Testament passage that children are a gift from the Lord. They are a reward from Him,” DeLuca said.
The kit includes pulpit announcements, scripture, resources for the pastor to be incorporated into a sermon and bulletin inserts.
“They can use it however they want to, and this way members can take the information home, reflect on it, pray about it and if they want to call and get more information they can,” DeLuca said.
The kit also includes posters, pens, magnets, hand held fans, tablets and an informational brochure with an acrylic holder.
Fellowship lunches are also offered. The SCCS will bring in a catered lunch after the last church service for up to 50 people and share more information about foster care and adoption opportunities.
The Adoption and Foster Care Process
A family or individual needs to become licensed in order to foster or adopt.
“As long as you are committed to a child and want to be a positive role model you can do this,” DeLuca said.
The process starts with training which is offered by the agency and of no cost. A series of twelve courses are offered and a total of 36 hours must be completed.
After several face-to-face interviews with licensing specialists who gather important information regarding parenting strengths, values and family dynamics, the home study is complete.
From start to finish the process can take anywhere from 6-9 months.
“The need is great. If someone reads this today and is going to start the process now, 6-9 months from now we’ll still have more kids coming into our care, so the need is great,” DeLuca said.
Many of the kids have been waiting years and years for an adoptive family to take them in.
“Most are in high school and they’re wondering ‘When I turn 18 who’s going to be there for me? If I go to college where am I going to go on holiday break? Where am I going to go in the summer?’ They want and need to be a part of a family,” DeLuca said.
For a packet containing more information on how you can become an adoptive or foster parent please visit www.summitkids.org.
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