PIQUA — With the heroin and opiate crises, more sibling groups are entering foster care than ever before, according to Lisa Barham, foster parent recruiter for SAFY of Sidney.
“Sometimes the siblings have to be split up because of the ages, and the older children may end up spending the night at children’s services offices,” Barham said, adding that teens might even end up being sent to group homes or out of state.
Barham spoke on Wednesday at Piqua’s Turntable Cafe during a small open house for caregivers and the community to encourage more people to become foster families, respite caregivers, and alternative caregivers.
The goal of the open house was to connect current foster care families with prospective families over drinks and desserts from the cafe. Kids were also given the opportunity to color cards for local first responders and the Westerville Police Department.
Barham explained that SAFY contracts with children services throughout the state, so if a county’s children services department cannot find a home for children, they will contract with SAFY to see if SAFY has homes for them.
There is still a need for more foster care families in general. “There are around 15,400 children in care in Ohio, but only around 7,200 foster homes,” Barham said.
Barham said that Logan County has about 144 children in the foster care system. “It may not sound like a lot at first, but that’s two to three children coming into care a week,” she said.
SAFY welcomes a variety of people to be foster parents, including married couples, single parents, households where both partners work, same-sex parents, co-habitating couples, and others. Potential foster care parents must be at least 21 years old and able to pass background checks, Barham said.
They are also in need of respite parents, who are short-term foster parents. They foster children from one night to up to two weeks. “That’s a great way to help support our families,” Barham said.
The Sidney division of SAFY is at 95 percent at capacity and they do not have a lot of options for respite families, she noted.
People can also choose to offer alternative care, which are certified child care providers who can watch children for up to 12 hours at time. It requires less training than to be a foster care parent, Barham said. Those alternative care providers can help with taking children to doctor appointments, watching children during date nights, transporting children, and so on. It is another way to build relationships with the children without being full-time parents, Barham said.
Even though those are two options for people afraid of getting attached to their foster children, Barham said, “People should never be afraid to get attached.”
“One way to look at it is what would happen to that child if you did not get attached and you were not in their lives,” Barham said. “I spent seven years as a group home parent, and I got attached. It was hard to let go, but children in my care had their first Halloween costumes, their first birthday cakes. They got to learn how to make fun, three-dimensional cakes. If had not gotten attached, gotten to know them, maybe that would have never happened for those children. It’s okay to be scared to get attached, but so many wonderful things happen when you do.”
Barham operates out of the Sidney office, but covers seven counties, including Miami, Shelby, Auglaize, Mercer, Darke, Champaign, and Logan counties.
“One way to help is for people to find out Facebook page,” Barham said.
SAFY’s Facebook page is at facebook.com/SAFYofSidney, and Barham encouraged people to follow them and share their posts, as their posts might reach someone who is able to be a foster parent.
SAFY will be holding a Freecycle Clothing Exchange at the Amos Memorial Public Library in Sidney on March 8, from 4-7 p.m. Barham encouraged people to donate gently used and clean clothing, which can be dropped off starting at 3 p.m.
For more information about SAFY or about becoming a foster parent, visit SAFY.org.
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336