DHR turns to churches for help

Published 9:40 pm Friday, March 18, 2011

Since October, local preachers and churches have periodically received fliers reminding them of the need for foster and adoptive homes in Marengo County. The fliers are part of a recruitment effort by the Marengo County Department of Human Resources aimed at locating families capable of providing positive home environments for a displaced child.

“We as an agency decided we wanted to look at everybody,” Tawanna Jones, Marengo County’s resource developer, said. “We decided that one of many approaches we were going to take to try to get the word out would be to send fliers to local churches. It takes special people to be foster parents and we know the faith-based community has a lot of those.”

The flyers in conjunction with other efforts have produced an abnormally high call volume over the last six months.

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“Since we started sending flyers out, we’ve had probably 40 to 50 people show interest,” Jones said of the recent increase in interested responders.

There are currently nine children in foster care in Marengo County and more than 250 who are awaiting adoption statewide.

“The issue that we have is most of the families that we have now want smaller children,” Jones said. “There are about 250 children in Alabama that have non-identified resources. These are children from Marengo County and other counties in Alabama.”

In addition to most families steering away from older children, DHR tries to keep foster children near their homes in order for them to maintain contact with their family and friends. That is a difficult prospect when nearby foster homes are not available.

“We want them to stay in close proximity to where they moved from,” Jones said. “We want them to stay close to their families and friends.”

While Marengo County DHR is not currently looking to place any children in foster homes, new cases open frequently and homes will be needed in the future.

According to Jones, there are currently five children in Marengo County who are waiting to be adopted. They range in age from 3 to 17 years old.

The amount of time children wait to be adopted varies. But Jones said the older a child gets, the harder it is to find a home.

“The younger children tend to have shorter lengths of stay. I would say they would tend to be there for three to six months before a home is located,” Jones said. “From six years (of age) and up, we have children that have been on there for years.”

Children awaiting adoption are housed in foster homes or residential facilities while others stay with their therapeutic providers.

While the need remains high for foster and adoptive homes, prospects have improved of late as 549 children were adopted in Alabama in 2010. Still, some 6,000 children remain in foster care.

While sending fliers to churches has helped to up the interest in providing homes locally, the Marengo County department has utilized other methods to help their message become more widespread.

“We also talk with civic groups. We have put up flyers at doctor’s offices,” Jones said. “We make announcements on the radio and there is actually a commercial on television.”