June 2, 2010

Quilters open their hearts for foster kids

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

The month of May was National Foster Care Month, and like many counties, McKenzie County is always in need of foster parents. Becoming a foster parent is a big step, one that not everyone is ready or able to take. Fortunately, as one area group found out, becoming a foster parent isn’t the only way to help Social Services and area kids.
Looking for a community project, the Prairie Rose Quilters called McKenzie County Social Services wondering if they had any ideas for the group.
“We called and talked with Amy Fast at Social Services and she suggested that we make quilts for foster care,” says Joyce Tveter, Prairie Rose Quilters member. “The group thought it would be a great idea so we started making quilts after Christmas with a goal of donating them in May for Foster Care Month. This was a great group effort by 25-30 area quilters.”
Some members of the group worked individually on their quilts while others worked together every Tuesday. The quilters, plus a few of Sue Wold’s FACS students, donated more than 25 quilts to the foster care program.
The quilts are used to give a little comfort to children when they are placed in foster care.
“Most of the time the kids come with very little to nothing at all from home,” says Amy Fast, McKenzie County Social Services director. “The blankets are special because they were made just for them and it’s something they get to keep if they are placed in another home or if they go home.”
Foster Care is a federal and state program designed to protect children by placing them in state custody. Children who come into temporary or permanent state custody are neglected, abused, abandoned, or their parents are unable to fulfill their parenting obligation due to illness, emotional problems, or other issues. But to the children it’s much more.
Children don’t always understand that the life they have could be better. After all, their family, no matter how broken, is the only one they’ve ever known.
In addition to the quilt donations, Foster Care Month is a great time for people to think about the possibility of becoming a foster parent. McKenzie County has very few foster families, so most foster children from the county are placed in homes in other towns making the transition even more difficult.
“We work as a mediator between the child, biological parents and foster parents in an effort to get the child back home as soon as possible,” says Fast. “It’s hard for a child to be removed from their home. But it is even harder for them when they have to leave their school and everything that is familiar to them because there isn’t a home available for them here. The distance also makes mediation very difficult.”
Foster parents are volunteers who offer safety and security to these children by opening their own hearts and homes. Foster parents are not paid, but are reimbursed monthly depending on the age and needs of the child. The state is responsible for the needs of the child in care such as medical and clothing expenses. Foster parents provide the love and nurturing that is vital to a child’s success.
“Becoming a foster parent is truly a process, but Social Services is there every step of the way,” says Fast. “The most important step is the training, because it gives foster families the tools they need to be good foster parents.”
Requirements of becoming a foster parent include passing a criminal records check, a drug screening, a medical examination, a home safety and home space requirements check, reference check, family assessment, and completion of the training program. Foster parents can be married, single or divorced and you do not need to own your home in order to become a foster parent.
“When you see those kids smile, there is really nothing better,” adds Fast. “That is what foster care is about - the kids and making things better for them. “
For more information on becoming a foster parent, contact Fast at 444-3661.