JANESVILLE—Wanted: Ordinary people with good hearts and a little bit of time.
Lots of people fit that description, and officials with the Rock County Human Services Division of Children, Youth and Families are hoping some will become foster parents.
Right now, the county is “unusually short” of foster families, said Lance Horozewski, division manager.
The reason is two-fold, Horozewski said.
First, fewer people are able and willing to do the work.
Second, even with intensive efforts to keep children in their homes, the county has seen an increase in the number of children needing foster care.
As of Aug. 3, Rock County had 134 children in foster care. That's up from 115 at the same time in 2014 and 104 in August 2013.
That's true statewide, as well, Horozewski said.
Children are removed from their homes only by court order. Reasons for removing a child include neglect, abuse or a parent who is hospitalized or in prison. Children with mental health or delinquency problems are sometimes placed in foster care, as well.
The spike in heroin addiction is one of the contributing factors to the number of children needing foster care, Horozewski said.
Removing a child from his or her home is traumatic, he said.
It's even more traumatic when the child has to be placed outside of his or her community.
“It's important to have kids in a place they're familiar with,” Horozewski said. “They can go to the local pool they're familiar with, drive down a street they're familiar with and see friends they're familiar with.”
It's also important for kids to retain their connections to the caring adults in their lives such as teachers, coaches and club leaders.
The foster care system depends on a variety of homes. Receiving homes take kids for up to 30 days. Respite homes take foster kids for a weekend. Others provide short-term emergency care.
“We need homes that are comfortable taking babies. We need homes that are comfortable taking teenagers,” Horozewski said.
Horozewski said many people are reluctant to become foster parents because they don't think they would be good enough substitute parents.
“More people would be good at this than they think they would,” Horozewski said.