May is National Foster Care Month, which is a time to celebrate the families who provide safe and loving homes for children who have suffered from maltreatment. DePelchin is grateful for the opportunity to work with foster families across our service areas — Houston, Austin, Lubbock and San Antonio — and provide these families the services and support they need to help children heal from the trauma they have experienced.
Last year, DePelchin cared for 769 children in foster homes and we licensed 140 families to provide foster care. The generosity of our supporters allows us to connect with these families and ensure they are fully equipped to provide the safe and supportive home that children need.
Much of our work at DePelchin focuses on providing prevention services to help families stay together so that foster care does not become necessary — services such as counseling for parents and children and classes that give parents strategies and tools to manage their children’s behaviors. However, there is still a need for families to step forward to provide temporary care (foster care) for children who have been removed.
We understand that those who are considering becoming involved but do not have experience with the foster care system might have a lot of questions. We want to begin to answer those questions and help families gain a clearer understanding of what foster care involves.
At DePelchin, a foster parent must be at least 21 years old, be in good physical health, pass a criminal background check and be able to financially provide for a child. Beyond that, our foster families come in all shapes and sizes. They are single or married, same-sex or traditional, working or retired. They are renters or homeowners, have children of their own or no parenting experience. What they all share is a genuine desire to care for children and the ability to provide a safe and loving home.
The process of becoming a foster parent with DePelchin typically lasts between three and six months, beginning with one of our free informational orientations. Among other steps involved, prospective foster parents must submit an application and other documentation, complete a required trauma-informed training program and participate in a home study to ensure the home meets all safety standards.
One misconception is that becoming a foster family is expensive. However, at DePelchin, training and home study are free and we reimburse the cost of background checks.
Finally, it is important to know that you are not alone. We assign caseworkers to all of our foster families and those caseworkers visit the home at least once a month to ensure that the child is safe and to see what resources the family may need.
Sometimes a family provides foster care until the child can be reunited with his or her birth family, and sometimes the foster family becomes a forever family through the legal process of adoption. All foster parents are important, and all are critical to the safety net we try to provide for the most vulnerable children among us.
If becoming a foster family sounds like something worth exploring, please sign up for one of our informational sessions to learn more. And when Foster Care Month comes around next year, we might be celebrating you!