May is National Foster Care Month and Idaho is focused on bringing more foster parents into the fold.
It's always been difficult for states to recruit the number of foster parents they need to support children. But Julie Sevcik, project manager for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said the pandemic has added another challenge.
She said the state relies on recruitment coordinators who can speak to potential applicants face-to-face, at in-person events, about the critical need for foster parents.
"Those two years of not being able to attend events, because they were canceled because of COVID," said Sevcik, "that did decrease our inquiry numbers quite a bit, as well as our new foster parents."
There were 1,500 children in foster care in 2020, according to Idaho Department of Health and Welfare data. It also notes that 65 percent of children are eventually reunited with their families.
Since there have been fewer foster parents over the years, Sevcik said her agency can struggle to identify the best matches for children with a smaller pool to choose from.
She said that presents other challenges as well, for parents who already are fostering children.
"We also will struggle to provide those foster families with a break in between their placements," said Sevcik. "To allow them the time that it takes to come back together again as a family and be prepared to accept another child in their home."
Sevcik said her agency provides resources for prospective foster parents, including a mentor with experience in this field, and training also is available.
She said it can be difficult work, but also rewarding for foster parents to see biological families make the changes they need to reunite with children.
"Foster parents are our absolute greatest asset," said Sevcik, "to being able to meet the needs of children who are unable to be safely managed in their own biological families. And we just appreciate everything that they do."
Source: Northern Rockies News Service