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Belmont County searching for foster parents

CHRISTINE PARKER

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services is putting out the call for foster parents, with a new round of classes beginning in April.

Jennifer Fietz, adoption case manager, said the DJFS is looking for interested people willing to share their lives with children in need.

“In order to be a licensed foster and adoptive parent in Ohio, you have to complete three service classes, and in Belmont County we offer those twice a year and our next set of classes begin on April 10 … through May 1,” she said. “There’s a total of 36 hours, and it covers various topics such as child development, childhood trauma.”

The classes will cover various types of trauma and abuse, ways to help minimize the trauma of placement and aiding children in managing emotions and behaviors.

“More recently, the children we’ve taken into custody were as a result of drug exposure newborns, so recently we have placed some newborns and preschoolers into foster homes,” Fietz said.

There are 36 children in foster care in the county with their ages ranging from newborn to 17 years old.

“That’s around average for Belmont County,” Fietz said. “Our need is always for foster parents that are willing to take a little bit older kids also, probably 6 up through the teen years. We have to utilize a lot of foster homes other than our own for those quite a bit.”

“There’s always a need for homes for all ages of children,” Children Service Department Administrator Christine Parker said. “Some homes only want smaller children so … it is more of a challenge when we have to place an older child.”

There are 34 licensed foster homes in Belmont County, and the agency is always looking for more.

“There are never enough homes,” Parker said, adding that this year the agency has begun reimbursing child care expenses for foster parents who must work outside of the home.

Fietz added that most foster parents intend to eventually adopt, but many continue to foster additional children after they have adopted.

Foster parents will provide for school attendance, monitor progress and note special needs and accomplishments, provide appropriate clothing, attend to medical and dental needs and help the child through the grieving and adjustment process.

A foster parent must be at least 21 years old and able to provide proof of sufficient income to meet the needs of the household. They must also complete BCI, FBI and Children Services background checks with no prohibitive offenses.

Fietz and Parker emphasize that the qualities of patience and flexibility are needed in prospective foster parents.

“Sometimes from day to day you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Fietz said, adding foster parents will also work with agencies and counselors that may be involved in a child’s case. Fietz also said foster parents would facilitate visitations with their foster child’s birth parents, which sometimes results in stressful behavior afterward, but children services maintains contact with a child’s birth parents.

They added the COVID-19 pandemic will not prevent in-person classes from being held. Rooms will be set up with plexiglass dividers, and precautions will be taken, including sanitizing surfaces.

The classes will be held at the DJFS office, located at 68145 Hammond Road.

To register for classes, contact Megan Maffe at 740-695-1075, ext. 1381, or email megan.maffe@jfs.ohio.gov, or Fietz at 740-695-1075 , ext. 1413, or email jennifer.fietz@jfs.ohio.gov.

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