by Mary Alice Cookson
Federal and state statistics put the number of Massachusetts children in foster care at 9,650 compared with about 400,000 children nationwide. Local kids in need of foster care, up to age 22, are in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Department of Youth Services. Perhaps the only common thread in their young lives is that they’ve endured some type of abuse, neglect or trauma that prevents them from living with their parents.
Currently, there’s a shortage of foster families, especially those willing to care for kids with special needs, such as autism, or significant emotional needs, says Sarah Sadooghi, communications manager of Communities for People Inc., (CFP), a nonprofit organization that offers “intensive foster care” services.
Intensive foster care serves children whose behavioral issues are too challenging for a regular foster parent, says Jay Turillo, CFP intensive foster care program director.
“Every day there are children and adolescents who need the safety and stability of a foster home,” says Turillo, “but most are unable to find one in their community and must give up connections to school and friends to live with a family that will keep them safe.”
Frequently Asked Questions
• How do I become a foster parent?
Contact your local DCF office if you are interested in regular foster care or a private agency if you are interested in intensive foster care. Individuals or couples, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation, may apply. There are no income requirements, but there are minimum requirements around space and availability to meet the needs of the child. All foster parents undergo a background check, a home study and pre-service training.
• Will I meet the child before move-in?
Yes, except for in emergency placements.
• What about cost?
Foster parents do not pay. Foster care subsidies are available for children in state custody. Although there are exceptions, intensive foster care parents receive daily stipends of $50, and regular foster parents receive about $20-$25 daily. Quarterly clothing funds (from $185 - $282), medical and dental insurance coverage, and financial help for birthdays and holidays are also provided. The stipends are not considered taxable income.
• What if there are problems in the home?
The safety of each child and family is a primary concern, says Turillo. Intensive foster care staff come to the home at least weekly; a 24-hour, on-call service is available; and there are monthly trainings and support groups.
• Could I eventually adopt a foster child?
Many children in foster care aren’t legally free for adoption and will eventually be reunited with their birth parents. Some foster parents do adopt foster children but it is not expected that they will.
For more information, contact:
• Communities For People Inc. – 877-852-1271; www.C4P.org
• Devereux Therapeutic Foster Care, Metro-Boston Region – 866-334-3879; www.devereuxma.org – Open house: May 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Massachusetts Adopted Resource Exchange – www.mare.org.
• Massachusetts Department of Children and Families – www.mass.gov/dcf